Quotulatiousness

August 12, 2017

Why The Government Shouldn’t Break WhatsApp

Filed under: Britain, Government, Law, Liberty, Technology — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 3 Jul 2017

Encryption backdoors – breaking WhatsApp and iMessage’s security to let the government stop Bad Things – sounds like a reasonable idea. Here’s why it isn’t.

A transcript of this video’s available here: https://www.facebook.com/notes/tom-scott/why-the-government-shouldnt-break-whatsapp/1378434365572557/

August 11, 2017

Despair Everywhere – Battle of Mărășești I THE GREAT WAR Week 159

Filed under: Europe, History, Military, Russia — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 06:00

Published on 10 Aug 2017

This week Russo-Romanian forces clash with the Central Power´s counteroffensive in the Second Battle of Oltuz. The failure of the Kerensky Offensive disheartens the Russian army and radicalizes the homefront. While the Bolsheviks were calling for “Peace, Bread and Land”, the new commander of the Russian army Lavr Kornilov strives to become a strong authoritarian figure for the political right. And the Battle of Passchendaele reveals a scarred, broken battlefield of mud and destroyed equipment. Despair is everywhere.

August 10, 2017

The Treaty of Westphalia

Filed under: Britain, Europe, France, History, Humour — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 20 Nov 2008

Treaty of Westphalia

August 9, 2017

Ernst Zündel, “the Zelig of Holocaust denial”

Filed under: Cancon, Germany, History, Media, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

In the National Post, Colby Cosh tells the tale of Canada’s “favourite” holocaust denial specialist:

Ernst Zündel in 1992 on the day of his legal victory in R. v. Zündel (via Wikipedia)

Ernst Zündel, the Zelig of Holocaust denial, died suddenly this weekend at his ancestral home in the Black Forest of Germany. If he had died sooner, before his 2005 deportation from this country, I am afraid he would have been widely described in obituaries as “German-Canadian.” He lived here from 1958 to 2000, unsuccessfully trying a couple of times to obtain official citizenship, and was visible for years as a self-styled opponent of Germanophobic stereotypes in the popular media.

Foreseeably, Zündel turned out to be the ultimate German stereotype himself: a war baby who used Canada as a refuge from conscription and anti-Nazi laws back home, all while obsessively re-litigating the Second World War in pseudonymous anti-Semitic pamphlets and books. Most ethnic Germans abroad wouldn’t deny the Holocaust or complain of a worldwide Jewish conspiracy, as Zündel did, but… well, if you have studied German history seriously enough to talk about it socially, you will have run into folks who have funny ideas and tiny chips on their shoulder about, say, First World War reparations or the bombing of Dresden.

[…]

It should be remembered that by 1986 Zündel was already well on his way to establishing his place in Canadian legal history. He had already been convicted once under the Criminal Code’s “spreading false news” section, eventually struck down by the Supreme Court in 1992’s R. v. Zündel. Free speech absolutists argued then that the legal and social pursuit of Zündel merely served to increase his notoriety.

As a purely empirical question of history, this is hard to resolve. But we know that protests and the exertions of the police failed to stop Zündel from winning over Irving, and thus acquiring international influence. It may have done nothing but enhance his credentials as a pseudo-intellectual grappler, defying social scorn and the force of law.

The authorities were eventually able to bundle Zündel off to Germany through a legal door that has since closed. He was deported as an undesirable alien on the basis of a ministerial “security certificate” — not long before the Supreme Court denounced the use of secret evidence in deportation proceedings, and made such certificates harder to obtain. After Zündel’s deportation, an apparatus of progressive opposition to security certificates was quick to materialize. One cannot help wondering: if he were still alive in Canada in 2017, and the state tried to banish him, who might be out marching on his behalf, defending him as an “undocumented Canadian”?

The Falklands War – A War for Lost Glory I THE COLD WAR

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

Published on 1 Jul 2015

The Falklands War was based on an old colonial struggle between two former world powers. When the military Junta in Argentina decided to claim the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic they didn’t reckon with Great Britain’s Iron Lady Margaret Thatcher. The British Prime Minister unleashed full scale invasion. The Royal Navy and the British Army landed and ultimately took the capital Port Stanley. The Argentine Army surrendered shortly after that.

QotD: University “studies” programs

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

As someone who got partway through grad school, I am only a sort of half-layman when it comes to modern European history. On demand I can present an official document that testifies, by implication, that I have spent a certain amount of time in seminars talking about Himmler’s agronomy education or discussing why totalitarian regimes are always sexually puritanical. Even before it was ruined for me by formal training, I was a history buff. So I can sort of reconstruct the process whereby I know what Auschwitz is. But, by the same token, I am less able to know how anyone else comes by the knowledge.

It seems some part of our system for producing intellectually responsible grownups has failed […] That failure is probably not to be found in the extensive education in social work. A degree in social work amounts to a degree in helping people: assuming it is not totally idiotic for our institutions of higher learning to be generating such paper, there must be mastery of some technical arcana involved. I do not know that this would involve instruction in the details of the Holocaust. A nursing education doesn’t; an engineering education doesn’t.

It is, rather, that “social justice and peace studies” business that captures my eye. Wouldn’t the matter, the essential grounding of an education in social justice and peace just be … history? (With particular attention to the topic of concentration camps?) Wouldn’t expertise of this kind require digestion of a mass of information about the flux of war, diplomacy, economies, and ideas? Something Studies items were on the menu already when I began my undergraduate education, and I majored in history partly because, in my innocence, I couldn’t see how you would study anything else about human affairs without that foundation.

But we all know the secret of Something Studies well enough now: it is a way of avoiding the rigour and complexity of a history education, and going straight to the business of striking political stances. It is History For Left-Wing Dummies. And when you see such a degree on someone’s CV, you can be quite sure you have found one.

Colby Cosh, “Some part of our system for producing intellectually responsible adults has failed Alex Johnstone”, National Post, 2015-09-24.

August 8, 2017

The Baltic States in World War 1 I THE GREAT WAR SPECIAL

Filed under: Europe, History, Military, Russia — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 06:00

Published on 7 Aug 2017

Before the First World War, what are today Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia were part of the Russian Empire. As that empire fought and fell, so to fought the soldiers of the Baltic States, first during the war, and then in their struggles for eventual independence.

Mingles with Jingles Episode 209 – British Battleships in World of Warships

Filed under: Britain, Gaming — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on 7 Aug 2017

In which I get all excited about incoming British battleships in World of Warships, and then I see the provisional stats of the higher tier ones and read what it is that makes them “special” and start to get a little worried. I’ve stockpiled hundreds of thousands of free xp for these thing, please don’t let them be shit!

Actually you may be able to help me with that. And then I speculate on what happens when a game starts running out of things it can do to make new units different…

Tank Chats #15 Tortoise

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

Published on 25 Feb 2016

Tank Museum Historian, David Fletcher is currently unavailable, so rather than make you all wait, Curator David Willey is here to present Tortoise!

The A39 Tortoise is the ultimate manifestation of the British concept of the heavily armoured, but slow, ‘Infantry’ tank.

It was built in 1947, making it a contemporary of the highly successful Centurion tank. The Tortoise proved to be too slow and unwieldy for the conditions of modern warfare and was a nightmare to transport.

The only service that the Tortoise had was when two tanks took part in trials in Germany in 1948. The Tank Museum’s Tortoise is now the only surviving example.

August 7, 2017

How to Swear Like a Brit – Anglophenia Ep 29

Filed under: Britain, Humour — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on 20 May 2015

Swearing is a fun stress reliever, and the British do it so well. Anglophenia’s Kate Arnell provides a master class in swearing like a Brit.

August 6, 2017

The allure of fine wines

Filed under: France, Wine — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Dan Rosenheck recounts his first encounter with one of those mysterious Premier Cru wines:

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. So say those who have never had a whiff of 1998 Château Lafite Rothschild. In late 2011 I had been an aspiring wine connoisseur for about a year, long enough to have learned the names of the world’s most exalted beverages, but not to have tried more than a handful. Like many novices, I started out on Bordeaux, memorising the 1855 classification of the region’s reds into price tiers – called crus, or “growths” – and developing a childlike reverence for the premiers crus (“first growths”) at the top. Although there were no sub-rankings within each class, Lafite was listed first because it was the most expensive tipple in the France of Napoleon III, and my drinking buddies told me it was still considered the premier premier cru today. Chinese drinkers certainly thought so: they had bid it up at auctions to stratospheric heights after deciding, for still-obscure reasons, that Lafite and only Lafite made for an impressive gift – perhaps because its name was easy to pronounce in Mandarin, or because the estate had stuck the character for the lucky number eight on the label of its 2008 vintage.

So when a friend in the wine trade snuck me into Wine Spectator magazine’s “Grand Tasting” in New York that November, I made a beeline for the Lafite table. They were pouring the 1998: a middling harvest overall for Cabernet Sauvignon, which Messieurs Primi Inter Pares had nonetheless turned into a masterpiece. As a Frenchwoman doing her best to smile sprinkled her elixir among the parched mob, I made off with a couple of thimblefuls, and scurried to the corner of the room to stand watch over my booty.

The perfume wafted into my nostrils before I had time to lift my glass. “zomfg,” began my tasting note. (The “o”, “m” and “g” stand for “oh my God”, you can guess what the “f” is, and the “z” comes out when exuberance makes you miss the shift key.) The scents were so intense, so focused, so easy to distinguish: ripe blackcurrants quivering on the branch; cedar that conjured up a Lebanese hillside; tobacco or thyme leaves floating on the wind. How could a wine be this powerful and yet this elegant? At the tender age of 13, the 1998 Lafite did not yet offer much complexity, and its firm, astringent tannins left me puckering after every sip – the punishment a fine young Bordeaux inflicts on impatient drinkers who disturb its slumber prematurely. But oh…that smell. “I smelled this across the room,” I wrote. “I smelled this at the bar afterwards. I smelled this even when I was shoving pizza down my throat at 3am. And then I smelled it in my dream.”

My first experience of a premier cru was at an LCBO tasting in downtown Toronto. I had developed an interest in wine a few years before, so I was very excited to try some of the well-known wines for the first time. Here’s what I wrote on the old blog (no longer online) in 2008: “That’s not wine … it’s an ostentatious status symbol”

At some point, an expensive bottle of wine stops being just wine and starts being primarily a status symbol. Case in point:

    Staff were delighted at the sale and the three customers were eager to taste the £18,000 magnum of Pétrus 1961 — one of the greatest vintages of one of the greatest wines in the world — which they had reserved from the cellars several weeks before.

    Unfortunately, the guests at Zafferano in Knightsbridge proved to be a little too discerning.

    As the magnum was uncorked, they declared it to be a fake, refused to touch the bottle and sent it back.

I enjoy wine, and I’m usually able to appreciate the extra quality that goes with a higher price tag … up to a limit. The most expensive wine I’ve tasted was a $400 Chateau Margaux, which was excellent, but (to my taste anyway) not as good as a $95 bottle I sampled on the same evening (a Gevry-Chambertin). Wine is certainly subjective, so my experiences can’t be easily generalized, but I think it would be safe to say that the vast majority of wine drinkers would find that their actual appreciation of the wine tapers off beyond a certain price point.

If you normally drink $15-20 bottles of wine, you’ll certainly find that the $30-40 range will taste better and have more depth and complexity of flavour. Jumping up to the $150-200 range will probably have the same relative effect, but you’ve gone to 10 times the price for perhaps 2-4 times the perceived quality. Perhaps I’m wrong, and the $1,000+ wines have transcendental qualities that peasants like me can’t even imagine, but I strongly doubt it. Any wine over $500 has passed the “quality” level and is from that point onwards really a “prestige” thing.

Update: A commenter at Fark.com offered this link as counter-evidence:

    “Contrary to the basic assumptions of economics, several studies have provided behavioral evidence that marketing actions can successfully affect experienced pleasantness by manipulating non-intrinsic attributes of goods. For example, knowledge of a beer’s ingredients and brand can affect reported taste quality, and the reported enjoyment of a film is influenced by expectations about its quality,” the researchers said. “Even more intriguingly, changing the price at which an energy drink is purchased can influence the ability to solve puzzles.”

This is why wines are generally tasted blind for comparative purposes (that is, with no indication of the wine’s identity provided). It’s a well-known phenomena that people expect to enjoy more expensive things than cheaper equivalents.

You can try this one for yourself: next time you’re pouring a beer or a wine for a guest, hide the container and tell them that what you’re pouring is much more rare/expensive/unusual than what it really is. Most people, either from politeness (they don’t want to be rude) or fear of being thought ignorant (that they can’t actually perceive this wonderful quality) or genuine belief in what you’ve said, will go along with the host’s deception and praise the drink as being so much better than whatever they normally drink.

Human beings are wonderful at rationalizing … and self-deception.

H/T to Colby Cosh for the original link.

Recap Of Our Trip To England I THE GREAT WAR Special

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

Published on 5 Aug 2017

Stow Maries Great War Aerodrome: http://www.stowmaries.org.uk/

The Tank Museum, Bovington: http://www.tankmuseum.org/

The Prince of Wales, Restaurant: http://www.prince-stowmaries.net/

Shock, horror – “local or organic food is … often available only in Canada to the wealthy”

Filed under: Cancon, Germany — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Chris Selley just got back from a European vacation, where he observed some odd German activity:

Last month, on vacation, I happened across what might be the platonic ideal of a fancy urban farmers’ market. The smell of wood smoke led me to a quiet street in Berlin’s leafy Prenzlauer Berg neighbourhood, where a man was smoking various kinds of fish in the middle of the road. As one does. There was a little mobile bicycle-powered coffee shop selling vastly overpriced espresso. There was the requisite improbably expensive produce and charcuterie and cheese. (My God, the cheese. Why do Canadians put up with our benighted dairy industry?) And to shock my Ontarian senses, there was a big booth selling local wines — which one could drink, out of glasses, in whatever quantities one saw fit, right there out in the open. Tipplers weren’t even confined to a secure pen. There wasn’t even a security guard!

Even more than at Toronto’s fancier farmers’ markets, it was abundantly clear this was a place for wealthy people with time to spare. And it never occurred to me that was a problem. A new study co-authored by Kelly Hodgins and Evan Fraser of the University of Guelph suggests it is, however — and a recent headline on the matter made my eyes roll so far back in my head I feared they might get stuck: “Access to ‘ethical’ food often available only to the wealthy, study says.”

“While eating local or organic food is often touted as superior from a health, environmental and oftentimes ethical perspective, such foods are often available only in Canada to the wealthy, with limited access for those living on lower or even middle incomes,” The Globe and Mail reported.

I know. I’m just as shocked as you are. Who would ever have expected that?

August 4, 2017

The Battle of Passchendaele – Mutiny in the German Navy I THE GREAT WAR Week 158

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

Published on 3 Aug 2017

Douglas Haig had been busy since the Battle of Arras came to an end. He amassed huge artillery concentration, got his hands on the new British Mark IV tanks and had a cunning plan that even involved a naval landing along the Belgian coast. And the opening of the battle was definitely more promising than the Battle of the Somme one year earlier. In Germany, a small naval mutiny is put down at the same time.

G.J. Meyer – A World Undone: http://bit.ly/WorldUndoneWW1

Experimental Lightweight Browning High Power

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

Published on 3 May 2017

One of the handguns that resulted from the post-WW2 interest in standardizing arms among the future members of NATO was a lightweight version of the Canadian produced Browning High Power. Experiments began in 1947 to create first a lightened slide by milling out unnecessary material, and then additionally with the use of machined and cast aluminum alloy frames. The first major batch of guns consisted of six with milled alloy frames, with two each going to the Canadian, American, and British militaries for testing.

This would reveal that the guns were in general quite serviceable, except that the locking blocks tended to distort their mounting holes in the alloy frames under extended firing. The cast frames were generally unsuccessful, suffering from substantial durability problems. The program was cancelled in 1951 by the Canadian military, and the last United States interest was in 1952. The example in today’s video is one of the two milled frame guns sent to the US for testing.

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