Quotulatiousness

April 9, 2017

Vimy Ridge: The Canadian National Memorial

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

Published on 11 Nov 2014

A visit to the Canadian National Vimy Memorial in northern France. The memorial commemorates the lives lost in the April 1917 battle of Vimy Ridge.

The Internet-of-Things wants to invade your kitchen

Filed under: Business, Technology — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Megan McArdle on the good and bad (mostly bad, IMO) of adding extra layers of technological sophistication to your kitchen appliances. If someone hasn’t already offered a hand-blender, can-opener, or soup tureen with Wi-Fi and/or Bluetooth built-in, just wait a bit … it’s bound to happen.

I don’t think of myself as having Luddite tendencies, but I confess that when I see refrigerators with screens set into their doors, my first thought is: “Why?”

No, don’t tell me that you can stream music or look inside the refrigerator. I already have technology for that — respectively, my Amazon Echo and this app called “opening the door.” Neither costs the thousands of extra dollars I would have to pay to get my hands on a Samsung Family Hub Refrigerator. And if my music streamer breaks, I can replace it without calling an appliance repair company and spending a fortune on parts.

I have similar sensations about many of the technologies on offer in today’s appliances. Every major appliance manufacturer seems to be looking for a way to stick wi-fi into their products, for example. And I confess, I have occasionally fantasized about starting a pie cooking in my oven, sauntering to the other side of my 5,400-square-foot home for a dip in the pool, and being able to use my phone to turn down the heat on the pie after 10 minutes. Alas, in the trim 1,700-square-foot rowhouse I actually live in, I am never far enough from my kitchen to actually justify resorting to my smartphone rather than my feet.

We are at a curious moment in cooking technology. The last decade or so has probably introduced more technology potential into the kitchen than any previous decade except the 1930s. Sous vide, electric pressure cookers, fuzzy logic rice machines, induction cooktops, food processors that also cook, wi-fi controls, web connections … these things are now common enough for ordinary cooking enthusiasts to have at least heard of them, if not tried them. It is an era of enormous potential. And yet, that potential is frequently not realized, because we can’t actually figure out what to do with all our new toys.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying that all of this new technology is useless. Far from it! I am an enthusiast for many of them. And yet, almost all these whiz-bang technologies fall prey, to some extent, to one of two problems. Either they are not actually very useful, or they are so spectacularly revolutionary that the average home cook can’t figure out what to do with them.

And this doesn’t even dip in to the awesomely terrible security issues of so many Internet-of-Things devices, creating new, wide vistas for Ransomware scumbags…

The Australian demographer’s Christmas

Filed under: Australia, Economics — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 03:00

An amusing post at the Weekend Australian … an Advent Calendar for demographic tidbits:

The demographer’s Christmas is the day the ABS releases census results. It happens once every five years and that day, Tuesday 11 April, is fast approaching. Demographers are counting down the days until they can open their data presents. And now you can join in the fun with the demographer’s advent calendar.

Every day until the release we will be featuring a tasty data hors d’oeuvres to get you in the mood for a whole lot of Australian social demography.

H/T to Stephen Gordon for the link.

Tank Chats #5 Lanchester Armoured Car

Filed under: History, Military — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 7 May 2015

Lanchester Armoured Cars were produced by the The Lanchester Company at the request of the War Office, during late 1920’s and 30’s.

The long chassis was fitted with a large armoured body that mounted two machine guns in a turret as well as a third, optional, hull mounted gun. The Lanchesters turned out to be much too big for reconnaissance duties and were almost impossible to turn around on the narrow roads found in Britain at that time. Only 39 cars were issued.

QotD: Re-assessing the pulp era’s racism

Filed under: Asia, Books, History, India, Quotations — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

The skepticism I’m now developing about ascriptions of racism in pulp fiction really began, I think, when I learned that it had become fashionable to denigrate Rudyard Kipling’s Kim and other India stories as racist. This is clearly sloppy thinking at work. Kim was deeply respectful of its non-European characters, especially the Pathan swashbuckler Mahbub Ali and Teshoo Lama. Indeed, the wisdom and compassion of Kipling’s lama impressed me so greatly as a child that I think it founded my lifelong interest in and sympathy with Buddhism.

But I didn’t begin thinking really critically about race in pulp fiction until I read Tarzan and the Castaways a few years ago and noticed something curious about the way Burroughs and his characters used the adjective “white” (applied to people). That is: while it appeared on the surface to be a racial distinction, it was actually a culturist one. In Burroughs’s terms of reference (at least as of 1939), “white” is actually code for “civilized”; the distinction between “civilized” and “savage” is actually more important than white/nonwhite, and non-Europeans can become constructively “white” by exhibiting civilized virtues.

Realizing this caused me to review my assumptions about racial attitudes in Burroughs’s time. I found myself asking whether the use of “white” as code for “civilized” was prejudice or pragmatism. Because there was this about Burrough’s European characters: (1) in their normal environments, the correlation between “civilized” and “white” would have been pretty strong, and (2) none of them seemed to have any trouble treating nonwhite but civilized characters with respect. In fact, in Burroughs’s fiction, fair dealing with characters who are black, brown, green, red, or gorilla-furred is the most consistent virtue of the white gentleman.

I concluded that, given the information available to a typical European in 1939, it might very well be that using “white” as code for “civilized” was pragmatically reasonable, and that the reflex we have today of ascribing all racially-correlated labels to actually racist beliefs is actually unfair to Burroughs and his characters!

Eric S. Raymond, “Reading racism into pulp fiction”, Armed and Dangerous, 2010-01-18.

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