Quotulatiousness

July 24, 2017

Great Blunders of WWII: The German Blunder At Dunkirk 1

Filed under: Britain, Europe, France, Germany, History, Military — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on 4 Nov 2016

From the History Channel DVD series “Great Blunders of WWII”

Looking back at the train wreck that was the 2016 Minnesota Vikings post-bye season

Filed under: Football — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 03:00

In the Star Tribune, Jim Souhan reminds us all that up to the bye week, last year’s version of the Minnesota Vikings looked like a potential Super Bowl contender, until the wheels all came off at once:

As of Oct. 23, they had beaten three teams that would make the NFL playoffs, and another that had won the conference championship the year before. They had won twice on the road and had opened U.S. Bank Stadium with a thrilling victory over They Who Shall Not Be Named.

Only a missed 23-yard field goal had kept them from advancing in the playoffs the previous season. They had the look of a budding power.

Then they collapsed, losing eight of their last 11 games, playing like invertebrates in a home loss to the Colts in December and eliciting predictable responses from fans who believe that early-season success is more tease than prelude.

So are the 2017 Vikings charged with banishing all memories of 2016, or with reviving the feeling the team had in mid-October? Was 5-0 a mirage?

For all of the latent pessimism surrounding the franchise, the makeup of the current roster and the nature of the NFL indicates that the 2016 team simply was destroyed by injuries. Even without a healthy offensive line, star running back and starting quarterback, the Vikings were in position to make the playoffs. Two excruciating losses to Detroit made the difference between 10-6 and 8-8.

The Vikings built a quality roster that was waylaid by an offensive line that couldn’t create a running game or give Sam Bradford enough time to look downfield.

The defense, tasked with carrying the team, wore down over the final 11 weeks. A competent offense would have prevented that from happening.

[…]

Zimmer’s first team went 7-9, and his second finished 11-5. With decent luck and health, there is little reason to doubt that this team should win 10 or 11 games and return to the playoffs.

With no worse than an NFL-average distribution of injuries, the Vikings roster is certainly capable of a 10-6 season and a wild card berth. Now that Adrian Peterson has moved on, the team no longer has to cripple game plans to ensure that AP got his touches, and the running backs are all starting-quality players even if no one of them is a drop-in replacement for Peterson (who was, beyond question, one of the greatest running threats in NFL history, but a liability in blocking and barely acceptable catching passes). Latavius Murray, Dalvin Cook, and Jerick McKinnon will be a better-balanced offensive threat as a group than Peterson was by himself … that can only help the team in the long run.

The Economics of Ideas

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

Published on 10 May 2016

At the end of our last video, we asked, “What spurs the growth of new ideas?”

To answer that, we’ll tell you two stories.

The first is about a man named John Kay.

He created the flying shuttle, one of the key inventions of the Industrial Revolution. His shuttle improved looms, and made it possible to produce clothes quicker and more cheaply. This allowed larger numbers of people to have new, clean clothes, and it made fashion something that was no longer just for the rich. But what did he get for his efforts?

Well, the weavers who were threatened by his invention broke the improved looms and his house was burned down. He eventually fled to France, fearing for his life, and eventually died there, a poor man.

Our second story paints a completely different picture.

It’s about a man almost everyone knows: Steve Jobs.

Like Kay, Steve Jobs was also an innovator, pioneering products like the iPod, iTunes, iPhone, and the iPad. For his efforts, he earned not only money but recognition as well. Unlike John Kay, Steve Jobs became an icon, celebrated for his achievements in the world.

Why such a stark difference between these two men?

When we examine the differences between John Kay and Steve Jobs, we’re also looking at the thing that either dooms an idea or allows it to prosper. This vital factor is institutions, which serve as the soil where ideas are planted.

Depending on the quality of said soil, the ideas either take root, or they shrivel into nothingness.

To understand how this is, think of the institutions in the United States today.

The US has institutions that encourage the germination and growth of ideas. If you’re an entrepreneur, America has incubators and investors, ready to fund your idea if it’s a good one. In the US, you also have recourse to laws that protect your idea, not to mention a culture that celebrates innovators. And, if your idea’s a good one, the market will handsomely reward you.

To tell you the truth, John Kay could only have dreamed of institutions like the ones we have today.

As you can see, good institutions can mean the difference between an idea withering and an idea thriving.

While it may seem like ideas grow at random, the truth is you need a set of key ingredients, or what we call “institutions.”

In the next video, we’ll see how patents affect the growth of ideas, and we’ll examine the trade-offs between protecting and sharing ideas. Last, we’ll also look at the role the government can play, in providing a stable environment where ideas can flourish.

QotD: Salvador Dali, in his own words

Filed under: Books, Europe, Quotations — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Here, then, are some of the episodes in Dali’s life, from his earliest years onward. Which of them are true and which are imaginary hardly matters: the point is that this is the kind of thing that Dali would have liked to do.
When he is six years old there is some excitement over the appearance of Halley’s comet:

    Suddenly one of my father’s office clerks appeared in the drawing-room doorway and announced that the comet could be seen from the terrace… While crossing the hall I caught sight of my little three-year-old sister crawling unobtrusively through a doorway. I stopped, hesitated a second, then gave her a terrible kick in the head as though it had been a ball, and continued running, carried away with a ‘delirious joy’ induced by this savage act. But my father, who was behind me, caught me and led me down in to his office, where I remained as a punishment till dinner-time.

A year earlier than this Dali had ‘suddenly, as most of my ideas occur,’ flung another little boy off a suspension bridge. Several other incidents of the same kind are recorded, including (this was when he was twenty-nine years old) knocking down and trampling on a girl ‘until they had to tear her, bleeding, out of my reach.’

When he is about five he gets hold of a wounded bat which he puts into a tin pail. Next morning he finds that the bat is almost dead and is covered with ants which are devouring it. He puts it in his mouth, ants and all, and bites it almost in half.

When he is an adolescent a girl falls desperately in love with him. He kisses and caresses her so as to excite her as much as possible, but refuses to go further. He resolves to keep this up for five years (he calls it his ‘five-year plan’), enjoying her humiliation and the sense of power it gives him. He frequently tells her that at the end of the five years he will desert her, and when the time comes he does so.

Till well into adult life he keeps up the practice of masturbation, and likes to do this, apparently, in front of a looking-glass. For ordinary purposes he is impotent, it appears, till the age of thirty or so. When he first meets his future wife, Gala, he is greatly tempted to push her off a precipice. He is aware that there is something that she wants him to do to her, and after their first kiss the confession is made:

    I threw back Gala’s head, pulling it by the hair, and trembling with complete hysteria, I commanded:
    ‘Now tell me what you want me to do with you! But tell me slowly, looking me in the eye, with the crudest, the most ferociously erotic words that can make both of us feel the greatest shame!’
    Then Gala, transforming the last glimmer of her expression of pleasure into the hard light of her own tyranny, answered:
    ‘I want you to kill me!’

He is somewhat disappointed by this demand, since it is merely what he wanted to do already. He contemplates throwing her off the bell-tower of the Cathedral of Toledo, but refrains from doing so.

During the Spanish Civil War he astutely avoids taking sides, and makes a trip to Italy. He feels himself more and more drawn towards the aristocracy, frequents smart salons, finds himself wealthy patrons, and is photographed with the plump Vicomte de Noailles, whom he describes as his ‘Maecenas.’ When the European War approaches he has one preoccupation only: how to find a place which has good cookery and from which he can make a quick bolt if danger comes too near. He fixes on Bordeaux, and duly flees to Spain during the Battle of France. He stays in Spain long enough to pick up a few anti-red atrocity stories, then makes for America. The story ends in a blaze of respectability. Dali, at thirty-seven, has become a devoted husband, is cured of his aberrations, or some of them, and is completely reconciled to the Catholic Church. He is also, one gathers, making a good deal of money.

George Orwell, “Benefit of Clergy: Some Notes on Salvador Dali”, Saturday Book for 1944, 1944.

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