Quotulatiousness

December 27, 2017

The Second World War – Operation Dynamo completed, The Long March has started.

Filed under: Britain, Europe, History, Military, WW2 — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

TimeGhost
Published on 20 Dec 2017

Thank you all for your support so far! Every minute, every hour we move closer to launching The Second World War as the largest collaborative effort on YouTube ever, and you’re making it happen!

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Audio: Winston Churchill’s speech to the House of Commons on 4 June 1940 after the completion of Operation Dynamo, the evacuation from Dunkirk.

Footage from Frank Capra’s “Why We Fight” series from 1942 and “The True Glory” from 1945, a documentary based on photography by combat camera men produced by the governments of Great Britain and The United Sates. Both courtesy of The National Archive, all right released.

Will Hutton mansplains Blockchain … as he understands it

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

Tim Worstall tries to mitigate the damage caused by Will Hutton’s amazing misunderstanding of what blockchain technology is:

Will Hutton decides to tell us all how much Bitcoin and the blockchain is going to change our world:

    Blockchain is a foundational digital technology that rivals the internet in its potential for transformation. To explain: essentially, “blocks” are segregated, vast bundles of data in permanent communication with each other so that each block knows what the content is in the rest of the chain. However, only the owner of a particular block has the digital key to access it.

    So what? First, the blocks are created by “miners”, individual algorithm writers and companies throughout the world (with a dense concentration in China), who want to add a data block to the chain.

Will Hutton is, you will recall, one of those who insists that the world should be planned as Will Hutton thinks it ought to be. Something which would be greatly aided if Will Hutton had the first clue about the world and the technologies which make it up.

Blocks aren’t created by miners and individual algorithm writers, there is the one algo defined by the system and miners are confirming a block, not creating it. The blocks are not in communication with each other, they do not know what is in the rest of the chain – absolutely not in the case of earlier blocks knowing what is in later. It’s simply a permanent record of all transactions ever undertaken with an independent checking mechanism.

It’s entirely true that this could become very useful. But it’s really not what Hutton seems to think it is.

India’s Geography Problem

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

Wendover Productions
Published on 5 Dec 2017

QotD: Psychology

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

Psychology is nothing at all like a science and those who practice it are nothing at all like scientists. Mostly they’re liberals. No two shrinks ever agree on a diagnosis, and official definitions of various mental illnesses are a grammatical and logical laugh riot. The great truth of life is that understanding character is an art, best left to master novelists and story-tellers.

L. Neil Smith, “Why the Left-Wing Seems Insane (Mostly Because They Are)”, Libertarian Enterprise, 2016-05-08.

December 26, 2017

The Hush Hush Army – The Adventures of Dunsterforce Part 1 I THE GREAT WAR Special

Filed under: Britain, History, Middle East, Military, Russia, WW1 — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 06:00

The Great War
Published on 25 Dec 2017

Dunsterforce Book: http://amzn.to/2BA5IRM
The Dunsterforce was a small British military mission under Colonel Dunsterville. Its goal was to prevent the spread of German influence in the South Caucasus and Caspian Sea. The soldiers soon find themselves in the complicated and violent post-revolutionary Caucasus where no one can really be trusted.

Khosrau Anushirawan: The Immortal Soul – Extra History – #3

Filed under: History, Middle East — Tags: — Nicholas @ 04:00

Extra Credits
Published on 23 Dec 2017

Once the chaos settled, Khosrau enjoyed an unprecedented era of peace. He brought reform to the army and the economy, invested in a great center of learning, imported knowledge from around the world, and earned his new title of “The Immortal Soul.”

Midwinter celebrations, historically speaking

Filed under: History, Middle East, Religion — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

In the most recent Libertarian Enterprise, L. Neil Smith tries to track down where our traditional Christmas celebrations originated:

Each and every one of those cultures has had a different way, of course, of dignifying what is essentially a middle finger in the face of nature. The earliest such I could find was Zagmuk, the ancient Mesopotamian celebration of the triumph of Marduk over the forces of Chaos.

Or whatever. I suspect the Mesopotamians would have decreed a celebration if it had been Chaos that had won in the second, by a knock-out. Nearby cultures picked the idea up and celebrated their own versions.

All this happened about 4000 years ago.

The Romans had a midwinter holiday, Saturnalia, which involved feasting and giving gifts. Later on, the word became a synonym for abandon and debauchery, but the Romans, by and large, were a pretty puritanical bunch, given to grim tales such as that of Lucius Junius Brutus who had his own sons executed because they sold out to the Etruscans, and Mucius Scaevola who burned his own hand off to prove that Romans… well, would burn their own hands off given half a chance. Nobody ever needed a festive midwinter holiday worse than they did.

Saturnalia started around the eighth century, B.C.

Hanukkah is interesting. I learned about it when I wrote The Mitzvah with Aaron Zelman. These days a lot is made of the “Festival of Lights” and the miracle that occurred when the Jews retook their Temple from a pack of Hellenized Syrians who had left only enough lamp oil behind for a single day. The oil miraculously burned eight days, instead, and that’s what all that ceremony with the Menorah is all about.

There’s another Hanukkah story, of a victory of the Maccabees (a nickname, meaning “hammer” — see Charles Martel) over those same Hellenized Syrians, which is how the Jews got their Temple back. Jews argue over which story is more significant, but it’s pretty obvious to me. It’s equally obvious that they’d find something else to celebrate in the middle of the winter, even if they’d never gotten their Temple back.

Which happened in 165 B.C.

Christmas probably wasn’t celebrated, as such, for a couple of hundred years after the presumed birth of Christ. I say “presumed”, because the whole story — no room in the inn, born in a manger with animals on the watch, shepherds coming to worship, a star shining overhead — was shoplifted, directly from another religion popular in Rome at the time of the early Christians, worship of the warrior-god Mithras.

Speaking of sticky fingers, holidaywise, the Yule log and the Christmas tree were “borrowed” from the norsemen, who were accustomed to hanging dead male animals and male slaves from a tree to decorate it.

Yuck.

There is a midwinter holiday that has come along more recently than Christmas. I have to confess that, to me, Kwanzaa (Est. 1966) represents one of the lamest, most transparent inventions a con-man ever foisted on any segment of the public. It’s basically a holiday for black people who don’t want to celebrate the white peoples’ holiday. On the other hand it’s no lamer than any other excuse for a holiday.

What makes a diamond priceless? – James May’s Q&A (Ep 7) – Head Squeeze

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

BBC Earth Lab
Published on 14 Feb 2013

James May imparts his knowledge to let us know that diamonds aren’t that rare after all.

James May’s Q&A:
With his own unique spin, James May asks and answers the oddball questions we’ve all wondered about from ‘What Exactly Is One Second?’ to ‘Is Invisibility Possible?’

QotD: Most consumers say they want local-grown food, but won’t pay the costs to get it

Filed under: Business, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Food grown locally, on small-lot farms without modern chemical assistance, is really expensive. The complex modern food-supply chain that ensures restaurants and food processors can get the same consistent mix of staple ingredients year-round also relentlessly beats down the price of food, sourcing wherever supply is cheapest, redistributing temporary local abundance to a steady global diet of everyday low prices. This is also not such a terrible way to eat; it is the foundation of much of our modern prosperity. But it is not local, artisanal, organic. It is global, industrial, indifferent. It has to be, both because organic inputs are much more expensive, and because trying to separate and track all the food so that restaurateurs can be sure of provenance and process would mean abandoning many of the efficiencies that make the stuff so cheap.

And Americans expect cheap. Cheap, after all, is what makes it possible for us to spend so much money at restaurants; if we had to pay all the workers $20 an hour and ensure that all our meat and produce had been farmed in the latest and most approved 19th-century methods, few of us could afford to have weekly dining out in our budget. Restaurants might be more authentic, delicious, moral places. They would also be much emptier ones.

Reading the Tampa Bay Times article, you get the sense that many of these restaurateurs tried to provide an authentic farm-to-table experience and found that customers were not willing to pay what it would cost — in money or variety — to have one. People are probably willing to pay some premium for that kind of food, but the premium is probably closer to 10 to 15 percent than it is to the sky-high sums that it would actually cost to rely on those sorts of farms, those sorts of methods. So the restaurateurs inevitably sold them what they were happily willing to pay for: food from an industrial supply chain, with a side of moral satisfaction.

It’s hard to be too angry at consumers. To be sure, they probably should have known that you couldn’t really buy organic, locally sourced food year-round at just a smidge more than you’d pay for a regular meal. After all, the average American spent half their income on food in 1900, while the modern American now spends a paltry 12 percent, even including a lavish helping of restaurant meals. That should give us some sign that local, artisanal food is not going to be cheap. But most Americans are not economic historians.

But it’s not even that easy to be mad at the restaurants. They’re in a viciously competitive business where most places don’t survive. In a competitive equilibrium where so many people want to be told they’re eating farm-fresh food — and so few people seem willing to pay for it — many of them probably feel that their choice is “lie or die.”

Megan McArdle, “Dining Out on Empty Virtue”, Bloomberg View, 2016-04-15.

December 25, 2017

WW1 Christmas Truce: Letters from the Trenches – Extra History – #2

Filed under: Britain, Europe, France, Germany, History, WW1 — Tags: — Nicholas @ 06:00

Extra Credits
Published on 24 Dec 2017

Sponsored by World of Tanks! New players: Download the game and use the code ARMISTICE for free goodies! http://cpm.wargaming.net/ivmqe6kc/?pu…

PLUS! In the spirit of the Christmas Truce, World of Tanks has prepared a gift box for EVERY PLAYER. Redeem the bonus code: HULSE14

“Yesterday there was a fierce and terrible onslaught… of Christmas packages into our trenches.” So began one soldier’s letter home after the Christmas Truce of WWI. These letters give us a peek at the joys and sorrows experienced by troops on deployment, from the pleasure of a surprise holiday truce to the pain of being too long apart from families.

Filling Trenches – General PoWs – Blindness I OUT OF THE TRENCHES

Filed under: Europe, History, Military, WW1 — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

The Great War
Published on 23 Dec 2017

Ask your questions: http://outofthetrenches.thegreatwar.tv

Repost – The market failure of Christmas

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

Not to encourage miserliness and general miserability at Christmastime, but here’s a realistic take on the deadweight loss of Christmas gift-giving:

In strict economic terms, the most efficient gift is cold, hard cash, but exchanging equivalent sums of money lacks festive spirit and so people take their chance on the high street. This is where the market fails. Buyers have sub-optimal information about your wants and less incentive than you to maximise utility. They cannot always be sure that you do not already have the gift they have in mind, nor do they know if someone else is planning to give you the same thing. And since the joy is in the giving, they might be more interested in eliciting a fleeting sense of amusement when the present is opened than in providing lasting satisfaction. This is where Billy Bass comes in.

But note the reason for this inefficient spending. Resources are misallocated because one person has to decide what someone else wants without having the knowledge or incentive to spend as carefully as they would if buying for themselves. The market failure of Christmas is therefore an example of what happens when other people spend money on our behalf. The best person to buy things for you is you. Your friends and family might make a decent stab at it. Distant bureaucrats who have never met us — and who are spending other people’s money — perhaps can’t.

So when you open your presents next week and find yourself with another garish tie or an awful bottle of perfume, consider this: If your loved ones don’t know you well enough to make spending choices for you, what chance does the government have?

Repost – “Fairytale of New York”

Filed under: Media, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Time:

“Fairytale of New York,” The Pogues featuring Kirsty MacColl

This song came into being after Elvis Costello bet The Pogues’ lead singer Shane MacGowan that he couldn’t write a decent Christmas duet. The outcome: a call-and-response between a bickering couple that’s just as sweet as it is salty.

QotD: Sir Humphrey’s bureaucratic holiday wishes

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

Sir Humphrey: I wonder if I might crave your momentary indulgence in order to discharge a by no means disagreeable obligation which has, over the years, become more or less established practice in government service as we approach the terminal period of the year — calendar, of course, not financial — in fact, not to put too fine a point on it, Week Fifty-One — and submit to you, with all appropriate deference, for your consideration at a convenient juncture, a sincere and sanguine expectation — indeed confidence — indeed one might go so far as to say hope — that the aforementioned period may be, at the end of the day, when all relevant factors have been taken into consideration, susceptible to being deemed to be such as to merit a final verdict of having been by no means unsatisfactory in its overall outcome and, in the final analysis, to give grounds for being judged, on mature reflection, to have been conducive to generating a degree of gratification which will be seen in retrospect to have been significantly higher than the general average.

Jim Hacker: Are you trying to say “Happy Christmas,” Humphrey?

Sir Humphrey: Yes, Minister.

December 24, 2017

Vikings pitch a shutout at Lambeau to beat the Packers 16-0

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 13:01

For the first time in over twenty years, the Vikings held an opponent scoreless, which is always a bonus when you’re the visiting team. Lambeau Field is a very cold place to play in December, and Saturday’s game was reportedly the coldest game played in the NFL this season.

Vikings safety Harrison Smith was snubbed for a Pro Bowl spot this year, but demonstrated just how good he is with a dominant defensive performance including two interceptions and a perfect rating from Pro Football Focus. The Vikings had a couple of injuries, the most sigificant being guard Nick Easton who is out for the remainder of the season with a broken ankle. Jeremiah Sirles will probably replace him on the offensive line. Long snapper Kevin McDermott went out with a shoulder injury, so tight end David Morgan was called in to replace him. Morgan had never snapped in a game at any level until Saturday, so it was a very good effort on his part that only one of his five snaps was “iffy”, but Kai Forbath scored the field goal anyway.

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