September 30, 2017

Area poet exposes big-name poet for plagiarism

Filed under: Cancon — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Bancroft is a quiet place (queue the joke about spending a week there one afternoon), and hardly the kind of place that you’d expect to be in the news for the investigative activity of a local poet:

A local Bancroft area poet has garnered international attention after inadvertently discovering and reporting alleged plagiarism by Canada’s former parliamentary poet laureate and Governor General Award-winning poet Pierre DesRuisseaux, now deceased.

“I was looking at Canada’s national poet laureate website, and I saw that some of the former poet laureate [DesRuisseaux’s] material was listed there,” Kathy Figueroa told Bancroft This Week. “I read the translation from the French for the poem J’Avance, and I was completely astounded … it was derived from Maya Angelou’s poem Still I Rise … I recognized it immediately. I was shocked … dismayed … incredulous.”

Figueroa then contacted the Office of the Poet Laureate to report her discovery. She noticed the poem was pulled immediately from the website. She also reported the information to Plagiarism Alert where a British investigator and poet Ira Lightman subsequently determined that other poems attributed to DesRuisseaux had plagiarized well-known poets such as Dylan Thomas and Tupac Shakur, according to CBC News. He reported his findings to the British Guardian newspaper, giving Figueroa credit for her critical part in the discovery.

As a poet herself, plagiarism is not something new. In fact, Figueroa has suffered from theft of her work on several occasions in the past.

“This is not trivial,” she said. “It is very dismaying when your work has been taken by someone else … and especially if that person has a respected name. There is a feeling of helplessness, and it impacts negatively on the person’s creativity. It can leave you disenchanted … you don’t feel like writing anymore.”

H/T to Colby Cosh for the link.

Kathleen Wynne’s “War on Economics” is going great!

Filed under: Cancon, Economics, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Giving people “free” stuff will always get you support from people who don’t understand TANSTAAFL (including the leader of the opposition), as Chris Selley explains:

Polls suggest Premier Kathleen Wynne’s ongoing war on economists is paying dividends. Fifty-three per cent approve of her Liberal government extending rent control to units built after 1991, according to a Forum Research poll conducted in May; only 25 per cent disapproved. In June, Forum found 53 per cent of Ontarians supported jacking up the minimum wage to $15 from $11.40 by Jan. 1, 2019, versus 38 per cent opposed. The move was hugely popular among Liberal voters (79 per cent) and NDP voters (28 per cent). Wynne’s approval rating is staggering back up toward, um, 20 per cent. But a Campaign Research poll released Sept. 13 had the Tories just five points ahead of the Liberals. That’s pretty great news for this beleaguered tribe.

The boffins still aren’t playing along, though.

Earlier this month, Queen’s Park’s Financial Accountability Office projected the hike would “result in a loss of approximately 50,000 jobs … with job losses concentrated among teens, young adults, and recent immigrants.” And it could be higher, the FAO cautioned, because there’s very little precedent for, and thus little evidence on which to judge, a hike as rapid as the one the Liberals propose — 32 per cent per cent in less than two years.

This week, TD Economics weighed in with a higher number: “a net reduction in jobs of about 80,000 to 90,000 positions by the end of the decade.” And the Canadian Centre for Economic Analysis paints the grimmest picture: “We (expect) that the Act will, over two years, put 185,000 jobs at risk” — that’s jobs that already exist or that would otherwise have been created.

It’s easy to see why raising the minimum wage is popular. Governments like it because it doesn’t show up in the budget. We in the media can pretty easily find victims of an $11.40 minimum wage, and reasonably compassionate people quite rightly sympathize. Forty hours a week at $11.40 an hour for 50 weeks a year is $22,800. You can’t live on that.

Of course, these Liberal policies are flying in the face of mainstream economic theory, so you’d expect the Ontario Progressive Conservatives to have lots of arrows in the quiver to fight … oh, wait. Tory leader Patrick “I’m really a Liberal” Brown supports both the rent control and the minimum wage hike, just not quite as much at Wynne does. There’s Canadian “conservatism” in a nutshell for you: we also want to get on the express to Venezuelan economic conditions, just not quite as fast as the government wants. There’s a reason Kathleen Wynne isn’t as worried about getting re-elected as she used to be…

Office Hours: The Bond Market

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

Marginal Revolution University
Published on 19 Jul 2016

In Intro to the Bond Market, you learned the basics about bonds and how they differ from stocks. But what if you’re investing and you’ve got a few possible companies to choose from? How would you evaluate which bond is likely to be the best investment for you?

Let’s look at an example from our bond market practice questions:

Suppose you’d like to invest in a company and you’ve narrowed your choice down to three firms: Company A is offering a zero-coupon bond with a face value of $1000 to be repaid in 1 year for $963. Company B has the same face value and maturity date but sells for $871. And company C also has the same face value and maturity but sells for $985. In which would you rather invest?

If some of the terms have you scratching your head, don’t worry! Go ahead and start this Office Hours video. Mary Clare Peate from the MRU team will cover the jargon and give you the tools you need to master the problem on your own.

QotD: Maxims 41-50 of Maximally Effective Mercenaries

Filed under: Humour, Military, Quotations — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

41. “Do you have a backup?” means “I can’t fix this.”
42. “They’ll never expect this’ means “I want to try something stupid.”
43. If it’s stupid and it works, it’s still stupid and you’re lucky.
44. If it will blow a hole in the ground, it will double as an entrenching tool.
45. The size of the combat bonus is inversely proportional to the likelihood of surviving to collect it.
46. Don’t try to save money by conserving ammunition.
47. Don’t expect the enemy to cooperate in the creation of your dream engagement.
48. If it ain’t broke, it hasn’t been issued to the infantry.
49. Every client is one missed payment away from becoming a target.
50. Let them see you sharpen the sword before you fall on it.

Howard Tayler, quoted by Rodney M. Bliss in “New Maxims Revealed For The First Time”, Rodney M. Bliss, 2015-12-18.

September 29, 2017

Battle of Polygon Wood – Betrayal At The Italian Front I THE GREAT WAR Week 166

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

The Great War
Published on 28 Sep 2017

The British and Australian forces under Sir Herbert Plumer continue to advance at Passchendaele. Plumer’s new tactic comes with a high price in men and material but it also gets results. German flying ace Werner Voss fights his last legendary fight and on the Italian Front, some Austro-Hungarian officers want to end the war sooner than later – and not in their countries’ favour.

Blockchain primer – blockchain as a ledger

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

At Catallaxy Files, Sinclair Davidson provides some background knowledge of blockchain technology as a modern evolution of the simple ledger:

The blockchain is a digital, decentralised, distributed ledger.

Most explanations for the importance of the blockchain start with Bitcoin and the history of money. But money is just the first use case of the blockchain. And it is unlikely to be the most important.

It might seem strange that a ledger — a dull and practical document associated mainly with accounting — would be described as a revolutionary technology. But the blockchain matters because ledgers matter.

Ledgers all the way down

Ledgers are everywhere. Ledgers do more than just record accounting transactions. A ledger consists simply of data structured by rules. Any time we need a consensus about facts, we use a ledger. Ledgers record the facts underpinning the modern economy.

Ledgers confirm ownership. Property title registers map who owns what and whether their land is subject to any caveats or encumbrances. Hernando de Soto has documented how the poor suffer when they own property that has not been confirmed in a ledger. The firm is a ledger, as a network of ownership, employment and production relationships with a single purpose. A club is a ledger, structuring who benefits and who does not.

Ledgers confirm identity. Businesses have identities recorded on government ledgers to track their existence and their status under tax law. The register of Births Deaths and Marriages records the existence of individuals at key moments, and uses that information to confirm identities when those individuals are interacting with the world.

Ledgers confirm status. Citizenship is a ledger, recording who has the rights and is subject to obligations due to national membership. The electoral roll is a ledger, allowing (and, in Australia, obliging) those who are on that roll a vote. Employment is a ledger, giving those employed a contractual claim on payment in return for work.

Ledgers confirm authority. Ledgers identify who can validly sit in parliament, who can access what bank account, who can work with children, who can enter restricted areas.

At their most fundamental level, ledgers map economic and social relationships.

Agreement about the facts and when they change — that is, a consensus about what is in the ledger, and a trust that the ledger is accurate — is one of the fundamental bases of market capitalism.


The evolution of the ledger

For all its importance, ledger technology has been mostly unchanged … until now.

Ledgers appear at the dawn of written communication. Ledgers and writing developed simultaneously in the Ancient Near East to record production, trade, and debt. Clay tablets baked with cuneiform script detailed units of rations, taxes, workers and so forth. The first international ‘community’ was arranged through a structured network of alliances that functioned a lot like a distributed ledger.

A fragment of a late Babylonian cuneiform ledger, held by the British Museum, 58278

The first major change to ledgers appeared in the fourteenth century with the invention of double entry bookkeeping. By recording both debits and credits, double entry bookkeeping conserved data across multiple (distributed) ledgers, and allowed for the reconciliation of information between ledgers.

The nineteenth century saw the next advance in ledger technology with the rise of large corporate firms and large bureaucracies. These centralised ledgers enabled dramatic increases in organisational size and scope, but relied entirely on trust in the centralised institutions.

In the late twentieth century ledgers moved from analog to digital ledgers. For example, in the 1970s the Australian passport ledger was digitised and centralised. A database allows for more complex distribution, calculation, analysis and tracking. A database is computable and searchable.

But a database still relies on trust; a digitised ledger is only as reliable as the organisation that maintains it (and the individuals they employ). It is this problem that the blockchain solves. The blockchain is a distributed ledgers that does not rely on a trusted central authority to maintain and validate the ledger.

Judge Roy Moore as a sign that worse is coming

Filed under: Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

ESR posted this to G+ yesterday:

Judge Roy Moore, a truly repellent creature who reifies every liberal’s fantasy of what fundamentalist conservatives are like (well, except for the racism – even Moore is not actually a racist), has won in Alabama against a candidate backed by the GOP establishment and Trump.

And I wonder if Democrats are too far gone to heed the warning.

You demonized the Tea Party, and you got Trump. If you neutralize or expel Trump as you dream of doing, worse is coming. Roy Moore is worse. Roy Moore is a sign. The conservative/populist revolt can no longer be contained even by Trump. The beast is loose.

Time to question your assumptions, Democrats (and establishment Republicans). The more painful and disruptive that self-questioning is, the more likely it is that your party might escape the destruction that is coming.

As the Instapundit often says, “Do you want more Trump? Because this is how you get more Trump.”

How to Make a Sharpening Plate Holder | Paul Sellers

Filed under: Woodworking — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Paul Sellers
Published on 18 Sep 2017

The sharpening plate holder is used daily and is a vital part of Paul’s sharpening system. Paul shows how to make your own using just a few hand tools. It holds the stones securely, keeping them in order from coarse to fine, which means you can easily pull it out and be ready for a quick sharpen.

For more information on these topics, see https://paulsellers.com or https://woodworkingmasterclasses.com

QotD: Maxims 31-40 of Maximally Effective Mercenaries

Filed under: Humour, Military, Quotations — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

31. Only cheaters prosper.
32. Anything is amphibious if you can get it back out of the water.
33. If you’re leaving tracks, you’re being followed.
34. If you’re leaving scorch-marks, you need a bigger gun.
35. That which does not kill you has made a tactical error.
36. When the going gets tough, the tough call for close air support.
37. There is no ‘overkill.’ There is only ‘open fire’ and ‘I need to reload.’
38. Just because it’s easy for you doesn’t mean it can’t be hard on your clients.
39. There is a difference between spare parts and extra [parts].
40. Not all good news is enemy action.

Howard Tayler, quoted by Rodney M. Bliss in “New Maxims Revealed For The First Time”, Rodney M. Bliss, 2015-12-18.

September 28, 2017

Back to the Moon in 2019?

Filed under: Space, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Charles Stross thinks a US circumlunar expedition is on the cards for just two years ahead, and he might well be right:

If Donald Trump is still president, US astronauts will return to circumlunar space around July 16th, 2019 …

That’s the 50th anniversary of the launch of Apollo 11. It’s also 6-12 months on from the projected date of Musk’s translunar tourist trip on a Falcon Heavy.

I expect Falcon Heavy to be delayed a few months, minimum, because no new launch vehicle ever flies on time, especially a crew-rated one, but it’s currently due to fly around December this year for the first time, with a vehicle currently undergoing integration at Cape Canaveral and commercial orders for subsequent flights. It’s rather hard to describe it as vaporware at this point. The same goes for the Dragon 2 crewed capsule; it’s due for a first uncrewed orbital flight test in March 2018, and a crewed orbital test flight later in 2018.


I’m making this a prediction, however, because the POTUS factor.

July 2019 lies within the term in office of Donald Trump (or Mike Pence, depending whether impeachment/removal has happened first then). Trump is nothing if not an egomaniac, and offering him the opportunity to make a historic phone call to lunar orbit in front of the TV cameras is a guaranteed ego-stroke. Trump is of an age to have young-adult memories of Apollo and I can’t see the idea not appealing to him if he can take credit for it.

So I’m betting that this is how Musk will fund development of his lunar-orbit capability.

(Terms and conditions: prediction invalid in event of nuclear war, global environmental or economic collapse, Trump and Pence both being impeached, or a Dragon 2 capsule exploding in flight, because any of these things might impact the launch schedule.)

Note: Charles is quite a fan of the impeachment scenario, if you hadn’t picked that up from context. The fact that he’s very much not a Trump fan actually makes his prediction that much more striking: he has no interest or desire to see Trump get a propaganda coup to end his term in office.

A very different kind of “hockey stick” – everything sucked until the industrial revolution

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

Steve Kates linked to this post at Luke Muehlhauser’s blog, showing another graph with a hockey stick pattern, but it isn’t one of the IPCC’s misleading bits of propaganda:

In How big a deal was the Industrial Revolution?, I looked for measures (or proxy measures) of human well-being / empowerment for which we have “decent” scholarly estimates of the global average going back thousands of years. For reasons elaborated at some length in the full report, I ended up going with:

  1. Physical health, as measured by life expectancy at birth.
  2. Economic well-being, as measured by GDP per capita (PPP) and percent of people living in extreme poverty.
  3. Energy capture, in kilocalories per person per day.
  4. Technological empowerment, as measured by war-making capacity.
  5. Political freedom to live the kind of life one wants to live, as measured by percent of people living in a democracy.
  6. (I also especially wanted measures of subjective well-being and social well-being, and also of political freedom as measured by global rates of slavery, but these data aren’t available; see the report.)

Anyway, the punchline of the report is that when you chart these six measures over the past few millennia (data; zoomable), you get a chart like this (axes removed for space reasons):

Click to embiggen

(And yes, there’s still a sharp jump around 1800-1870 if you chart this on a log scale.)

Basically, if I help myself to the common (but certainly debatable) assumption that “the industrial revolution” is the primary cause of the dramatic trajectory change in human welfare around 1800-1870, then my one-sentence summary of recorded human history is this:

    Everything was awful for a very long time, and then the industrial revolution happened.

More than you want to know about the Panzer III

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

Published on 8 Jun 2017

Panzer IIIs were common German tanks in WW2, and here I talk about them, and make a few general points.

Another video (there will be more) from ‘The Tank Museum’ at Bovington. Why they changed the name is beyond me. I’d like to meet the branding guru who came up with that idea and administer several hard slaps. It’s like changing ‘Wimbledon’ to ‘The Tennis Competition’.

Anyway, here, in its particular shade of beige, is the tank (with a brief shot of one of its cousins), and I ramble on about various bits of it. It’s all right for you – you just have to watch it once, but I had to edit this, which involves seeing each bit several times, and wading through all the footage of me droning on and on.

I use the word ‘burn’ to describe a H.E.A.T. round’s penetrating a tank, and as several people have pointed out, this is not technically the correct word. They are right, although the word is often used in this context, and the temperatures involved are very high, but yes, I admit it: I should not have used the word ‘burn’.

Yes, I am aware that the links on the end plate come in late. This is because YouTube has changed the system, which used to be flexible, to one that relies on limited templates. It doesn’t enable the user to put picture links in except in the last twenty seconds of a video, and so because I added a little shot at the end, the links all start late. Possibly the new system is supposed to be more idiot-resistant than the old one. Unfortunately, this makes it an obstacle for the intelligent.

Here’s a link to the tank museum’s site: http://www.tankmuseum.org/home

QotD: Maxims 21-30 of Maximally Effective Mercenaries

Filed under: Humour, Military, Quotations — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

21. Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Take his fish away and tell him he’s lucky just to be alive, and he’ll figure out how to catch another one for you to take tomorrow.
22. If you can see the whites of their eyes, somebody’s done something wrong.
23. The company mess and friendly fire should be easier to tell apart.
24. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a big gun.
25. If the damage you do is covered by a manufacturers warranty, you didn’t do enough damage.
26. “Fire and forget” is fine, provided you never actually forget.
27. Don’t be afraid to be the first to resort to violence.
28. If the price of collateral damage is high enough, you might be able to get paid for bringing ammunition home with you.
29. The enemy of my enemy is my enemy’s enemy. No more. No less.
30. A little trust goes a long way. The less you use, the further you’ll go.

Howard Tayler, quoted by Rodney M. Bliss in “New Maxims Revealed For The First Time”, Rodney M. Bliss, 2015-12-18.

September 27, 2017

Stalin’s Great Purge – Effects on the Red Army 1936-1938

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

Military History Visualized
Published on 25 Aug 2017

The Great Purge had a massive effect on Soviet Society and the Red Army. This video gives various insights in the numbers, effects and other aspects.

QotD: Maxims 11-20 of Maximally Effective Mercenaries

Filed under: Humour, Military, Quotations — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 01:00

11. Everything is air-droppable at least once.
12. A soft answer turneth away wrath. Once wrath is looking the other way, shoot it in the head.
13. Do unto others.
14. “Mad Science” means never stopping to ask “what’s the worst thing that could happen?”
15. Only you can prevent friendly fire.
16. Your name is in the mouth of others: be sure it has teeth.
17. The longer everything goes according to plan, the bigger the impending disaster.
18. If the officers are leading from in front, watch out for an attack from the rear.
19. The world is richer when you turn enemies into friends, but that’s not the same as you being richer.
20. If you’re not willing to shell your own position, you’re not willing to win.

Howard Tayler, quoted by Rodney M. Bliss in “New Maxims Revealed For The First Time”, Rodney M. Bliss, 2015-12-18.

Older Posts »

Powered by WordPress