Quotulatiousness

July 25, 2017

British Rifles of WW1 I THE GREAT WAR Special feat. C&Rsenal

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

Published on 24 Jul 2017

Check out Othais’ episode about the Ross Rifle: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2uGYSQ_-FJU

Othais introduces us to the famous British standard rifles of WW1 including the Short Magazine Lee Enfield (SMLE), the Long Enfield and the controversial Ross Rifle.

Update: Patrick Crozier offers a bit of light entertainment in relation to the “Smellie”:

Great Man Theory? No. Impersonal Forces of History? No. How about the Bond Villain Theory?

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

Charles Stross may have cracked the mystery of what the heck is happening in our particularly odd time period:

History: is it about kings, dates, and battles, or the movement of masses and the invisible hand of macroeconomics?

There’s something to be said for both theories, but I have a new, countervailing theory about the 21st century (so far); instead of the traditional man on a white horse who leads the revolutionary masses to victory, we’ve wandered into a continuum dominated by Bond villains.

Consider three four five, taken at random:

Mr X: leader of a chaotic former superpower with far too many nuclear weapons, Mr X got his start in life as an agent of SMERSH the KGB. Part of its economic espionage directorate, tasked with modernizing a creaking command economy in the 1980s, Mr X weathered the collapse of the previous regime and after a turbulent decade of asset stripping rose to lead a faction of billionaire oligarchs, robber barons, and former secret policemen. Mr X trades on his ruthless reputation — he is said to have ordered a defector murdered by means of a radioisotope so rare that the assassination consumed several months’ global production — and despite having an official salary on the order of £250,000 he has a private jet with solid gold toilet seats and more palaces than you can shake a stick at. Also nuclear missiles. (Don’t forget the nuclear missiles.) Said to be dating the ex-wife of Mr Y. Exit strategy: change the constitution to make himself President-for-Life. Attends military parades on Red Square, natch. Bond Villain Credibility: 10/10

Mr Y: Australian multi-billionaire news magnate. (Currently married to a former supermodel and ex-wife of Mick Jagger.) Owns 80% of the news media in Australia and numerous holdings in the UK and USA, including satellite TV channels, radio stations, and newspapers. Reputedly had Arthur C. Clarke on speed-dial for advice about the future of communications technology. Was the actual no-shit model upon whom Elliot Carver, the villain in “Tomorrow Never Dies”, the 18th Bond movie, was based. Exit strategy: he’s 86, leave it all to the kids. Bond Villain Credibility: 10/10

[…]

I think there’s a pattern here: don’t you? And, more to the point, I draw one very useful inference from it: if I need to write any more near-future fiction, instead of striving for realism in my fictional political leaders I should just borrow the cheesiest Bond villain not already a member of the G20 or Davos.

The Greatest Scientist of the 20th Century You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

Filed under: History, Religion, Science, Space — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 13 Jul 2017

There’s a perception that religion and science go together about as well as mayonnaise and marshmallows. In some instances, this is, perhaps, true. But on a typically warm Southern California January in 1933 at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California (the same place and same time that Jack Parsons of rocket science fame was doing his experiments — history intersecting!), religion and science proved that these two ideals didn’t have to be enemies.

Want the text version?: http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2014/02/georges-lemaitre-greatest-scientist-youve-never-heard/

QotD: The republican form of government

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

… it IS possible to have a Res Publica – by the people – government, but only as long as it is by the ‘deserving’ few. The worst excesses of these proto-democracies can be undercut by an extreme limiting of the franchise – preferably to an effective oligarchy of voters narrow enough to be more self-interested in keeping control against the uneducated and undisciplined rule of the genuine majority, but this is hard to achieve. The Serene Republic of Venice achieved it for almost a thousand years by limiting the franchise to the great and the good families, and the early United States managed to hold it together for about 90 years by limiting it by racial profiling as well as property franchise… but note that both were, like all the Greek and Roman republics, slave based societies: so their claims to be genuine democracies are hopelessly confused to anyone with a consistent or comprehensible ideological viewpoint. In their case ‘the people’ simply meant, the deserving few that we will allow to vote.

This limiting of the franchise to the deserving actually continues in very successful – one could even say the ONLY successful – republics of the modern world. The ancient Greek and Roman franchises were honestly based on ‘those who contribute get a say’. Contribution at that time being buying the expensive armour yourself, putting in the training time, and taking the risk in the front lines of battle: to prove you put the good of the state and your fellow citizens above your own interests. (Though it is notable that their Republics almost instantly graduated to imperialistic and aggressive expansion, which pretty quickly made republican government unworkable, and inevitably led to such champions of democracy as Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar.)

The only long term successful modern Republic – Switzerland – still has compulsory military service; as does Israel, the only successful democracy ever established in the Middle East.

The other ways to limit the franchise – Like the first (1770’s), second (1860’s) and third (1880’s) American attempts of a franchise limited by race/property; or the first (1790’s), second (1820’s) or third (1860’s) French attempts at a property-based franchise (which often saw as few as 20% of people with a vote): were actually much less successful than the equivalent slow Westminster-style expansions of the franchise under a developing constitutional monarchy. (No Western Westminster system state has ever had a coup, let alone a civil war.) France has had 5 republics, 3 monarchies and 2 emperors in less than 200 years; and the United States has similarly run through several major reformations of their race/property franchise system since their – 600,000 dead – little debate about their system.

(The American comparison with France is amusing. The first American republic was smashed by the Confederate Defection; the second was an anti-democratic imposition on the South – with no voting rights for Confederate ‘activists’ – after the Confederacy War of Independence was crushed; the third ‘republic’ was when the white southerners were re-enfranchised and promptly disenfranchised the blacks who had been the only voters in the south for the previous 20 years – and whose elected black representatives had not been allowed in the front door or the dining rooms of Congress; the fourth republic… well you get the idea. The US system, with all its defections, jumps and retreats, simply can’t be called a continuously expanding development the way Westminster systems are.)

Nigel Davies, “The ‘Arab Spring’, 1848, and the 30 Years War/s…”, rethinking history, 2015-09-19.

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”

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.

July 23, 2017

In military training, “similar” is not the same as “identical”

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

Ted Campbell looks at one of the legacies of the 1968 integration of the Canadian Army, Royal Canadian Navy, and Royal Canadian Airforce as the unified Canadian Armed Forces:

Our problem, in Canada, goes back to a fairly simple mistake that former Defence Minister Paul Hellyer and his minions made in the mid 1960s. First I must declare that a lot of what Mr Hellyer proposed was good ~ the unification of the armed forces, creating proper joint commands in which Navy, Army and Air Force units and formations served together, under one single commander, just as history taught they they would fight together in war, made excellent sense. Some of what he introduced ~ like the integration of the military into a single service and introducing common occupation and training systems ~ made less, little or no sense at all.

The logical trap into which Mr Hellyer and his team fell and the consequential problem which still infects the Canadian Armed Forces today is that they failed to grasp that similar ≠ identical. Consider, for example, a Navy helicopter pilot and an Army attack helicopter pilot ~ both must fly rotary wing aircraft at a basic level, in that they are almost certainly identical, but, after that, the differences between landing a very big helicopter on the heaving deck of a very small warship and flying a small helicopter at high speeds at near treetop level are very large and the two pilots are very, very dissimilar. Does it make sense to train them together at the primary flying school level? Yes! Does it make sense to mix them together into one pool of “pilots” on the grounds that they are very much the same? No! The same applies to cooks and radar technicians and pay clerks and, and, and … they are, very often, similar but rarely nearly enough identical to merit having them in a single “trade” or group. But, Mr Hellyer was, valiantly, trying to solve a funding crisis and savings in personnel and training were seen as the equivalent of the brass ring on the old fashioned carnival carousel. For almost fifty years Mr Hellyer’s deeply flawed notion of integration has been sacrosanct even as his very good ideas about unification were pushed aside by empire building careerists in the most senior ranks of the Canadian Forces and by lazy superiors, including disengaged ministers and bureaucrats.

We can start the fix by recognizing that some things do work: there should be, just as an example, one, single, integrated primary flying school, where all helicopter pilots learn to fly a basic rotary wing aircraft. But Navy, Army and RCAF pilots (and, yes, each service should have its own) should, then, be trained in their specific specialities by their own service specialists. Similar things should apply to many skills ~ integrate the education and training when the similarities outweigh the differences, but train, usually, in single service, specialist centres, when the differences are dominant. Some training ~ staff training, for example, to produce officers who can serve in joint HQs ~ must be integrated, however, if we ever want to have a proper unified force.

Will it cost more? Yes … superficially. But the savings for which Mr Hellyer so fervently hoped, in 1968, never really materialized; instead the training system used, as it was directed to do, minimum common standards to achieve economies and, thereby, financially “burdened” the other commands with special to function training: teaching Army cooks to drive trucks and use field (gas) stoves, for example, and teaching Navy supply people how to work in a ship. It is possible, even likely, in my opinion, that Canadian military education and training could be reformed at low cost. Some education and training can be contracted out or done, as is the case now, using a kind of public-private partnership (P3) arrangement. I will return to this later with a thought on the the Royal Military College, the Staff Colleges and so on.

Fake Paris – Female Soldiers – Naval Warfare I OUT OF THE TRENCHES

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

Published on 22 Jul 2017

It’s time for the Chair of Wisdom again and this week Indy talks about fake Paris, female soldiers and the rules of naval warfare.

July 22, 2017

Dunkirk Myth vs. Reality – Operation Dynamo

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

Published on 7 Jul 2017

The evacuation of British, Belgian, and French troops at Dunkirk – Operation Dynamo – was a crucial event in the early stages of the Second World War. Although the Allies were ultimately severely beaten in the Battle of France, the events at Dunkirk were mostly portrayed and perceived as a victory for the British. Quite naturally various myths surround this event.

» SOURCES «

Palmer, Alice: Dunkirk: The Defeat That Inspired a Nation
http://repository.wellesley.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1014&context=library_awards

Alexander, Martin S.: French grand strategy and defence preparations. In: Cambridge History of the Second World War, Volume I
Frieser, Karl-Heinz: The war in the West, 1939-1940: an unplanned Blitzkrieg. In: Cambridge History of the Second World War, Volume I
Amazon.com link (affiliate): http://amzn.to/2tuFtuM

Gardner, W.J.R. Gardner: The Evacuation from Dunkirk: ‘Operation Dynamo’, 26 May-June 1940 (Naval Staff Histories)
Amazon.com link (affiliate): http://amzn.to/2uoqMFV

History of The Association of Dunkirk Little Ships
http://www.adls.org.uk/t1/content/history-association-dunkirk-little-ships

Mrs. Miniver
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mrs._Miniver

QotD: Middle-class “revolutionaries”

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

‘Revolutions’ tend to kick off way before the society as a whole is really ready for them. Usually as pre-emptive takeover attempts by the newly educated middle class ‘intelligentsia’, (or chattering class as we would call them, or ‘twitteratti’ as I have recently heard the political ‘pundits’ ruthlessly described).

Unsurprisingly these newly graduated minor functionaries, petty civil servants, and junior lawyers, want more say in the power structure of the state than the traditional ruling class has previously allowed them. Unsurprisingly – I suppose – they want it immediately… Or as Billy Connelly said in a skit, “We want it now, we want it yesterday, we want to control half of that, most of that, f….ing ALL of that, and stay awake, because tomorrow the demands will change!”

The problem with the proto middle classes jumping the gun and trying to impose their idealized version of democracy before the working class (read average voter) is even half way down the trail to a similar level of literacy and political interest and philosophical conceptualization: is that the resulting mad theories are far too complex for the voters, and NO imagined safe-guard can stand up to the combined ignorance and misunderstanding of the newly enfranchised. The result is, absolutely inevitably, a dictatorship.

Either one of the theoretical loony models is seized by a corrupt power seeker ‘for the good of the people’, and away we go to a Mussolini, or a Stalin, or a Franco, or a Gaddafi, or a Castro, or a… well the list would go to a couple of hundred in the last century. Or worse, it is seized by the much more restricted number of ‘genuine believer’ nutters: like the Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell, who (like Hitler, Petain and Mao) honestly believed that the only way to give the people the government they deserved was “to rule myself!”

Nigel Davies, “The ‘Arab Spring’, 1848, and the 30 Years War/s…”, rethinking history, 2015-09-19.

July 21, 2017

July Days In Petrograd – Blood On The Nevsky Prospect I THE GREAT WAR Week 156

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

Published on 20 Jul 2017

The tensions between the Russian Provisional Government, between the civilians and the Bolsheviks turn violent this week 100 years ago. Machine Guns fire into the demonstrations on the Nevsky Prospect and arrest warrants are issued for Lenin and Trosky. At the same time the preliminary bombardment for the Battle of Passchendaele begins on the Western Front.

Dunkirk

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

Megan McArdle was very impressed with the new Christopher Nolan movie on the evacuation of Dunkirk in 1940:

I was perhaps unreasonably excited to see Dunkirk, Christopher Nolan’s new movie about the evacuation of British forces from a French beach during World War II. The historical event on which it is based is astonishing: unable to get enough warships close to the beach to load their fleeing troops, the British government mobilized a flotilla of small private craft, which ultimately helped evacuate more than 330,000 soldiers ahead of the German army. I was eager to see what one of my favorite directors would do with the story.

He did not disappoint. This nearly flawless film put me on the edge of my seat for two hours. It is the best thing I’ve seen about war since the stunning opening of Saving Private Ryan — and Nolan, bless him, is not prey to Steven Spielberg’s compulsion to mar his creations by slopping them over with speechy goo.

As with all of Nolan’s films, it’s emotionally distant from its characters. Cillian Murphy plays an officer credited only as “Shivering Soldier,” and none of the characters have much in the way of backstory or goals, other than survival. Matt Zoller Seitz calls it an “Ant Farm Picture,” a portrait of society in which individuals are almost incidental. That’s rather the point.

A lesser director would have given in to the temptation to make this a story about the righteous crusade against the Germans, men fighting other men, but Nolan shows us a world in which the enemy is a plane, a torpedo, the water and the flying bullets, and men are reduced to little more than their rage to live.

The result is less a war film than a disaster movie. An exquisite disaster movie. I didn’t expect such a vivid and visceral illustration of how quickly a ship can sink, or just how difficult it is to hit a target in the sky. I left the theater almost too overwhelmed to talk.

Having recovered, I began to wonder why we can’t have more pictures like Dunkirk. The easy answer is, of course, that there is only one Christopher Nolan, and only so many people willing to give him $150 million to spend putting thousands of extras and some World War II-era ordnance onto a French beach. But the easy answer is incomplete.

I haven’t seen the movie, but I’ve been impressed with the reviews I’ve seen so far (except the ludicrous “it doesn’t have any women or POC characters in lead roles” criticism from historical illiterates).

Behind the Scenes of Naval Legends – HMCS Haida

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

Published on 19 Jul 2017

Curious about how the Naval Legends episodes are made? Want to know how the beauty shots are made? Then let me take you behind the scenes of Naval Legends HMCS Haida.

Filmed with the permission of Parks Canada, at HMCS Haida National Historic Site.

Special thanks to Nicholas Moran, WarGaming America.

QotD: Anachronistic “Regency” romances

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

Which brings us to a discussion about romances, yesterday. Like apparently most people who read Regencies I’ve become aware of a tendency for them to read more and more like modern romances than like something set in that time.

Someone nailed it for me by pointing out that female characters have been getting more modern. For instance, they will do things like not want to marry UNTIL they have sexual experience, so they’ll be engaged and go out to find someone to sleep with them: in a time without either contraceptives or antibiotics and in a time when a unwed pregnancy would ruin not only the woman but all her relatives.

Or they rebel against being the one who was supposed to marry to make the family fortunes. I’m not saying a woman might not wish to marry someone else rather than make the family fortunes, but it would present in her own mind not as resentment to lifting the family out of debt, but as “I’m madly in love with the stable boy.” or whatever. And if a woman was thoroughly opposed to [being] married, it often manifested (at least in Catholic countries, granted, not England) as a “vocation.” What it didn’t manifest as was “I want to pursue a career.” Women married, or if they were unmarried stayed around the house helping with the nephews and the running of the house. If they had the means they might set up household with a companion. But only the poor worked, (even for men “having to” work was a downcheck on status.) If you were a governess or a nurse, it wasn’t for a “career” but because you were desperate.

Oh, and please save me from all the women running philanthropic organizations. While there were of course a number of these run by women, it wasn’t every other woman as seems to be in today’s regency romances. And charities for unmarried mothers would be very heavy on the preaching and getting them to give the baby up for adoption. Not telling them they’ve done nothing wrong and “affirming” their choices. Again, no contraceptives, no antibiotics. Sex and its consequences were serious business PARTICULARLY for women who make more of an investment in reproduction.

Sarah A. Hoyt, “What Has Gone Before Us”, According to Hoyt, 2015-08-03.

July 20, 2017

ESR on the early history of distributed software

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

Eric S. Raymond is asking for additional input to his current historical outline of the development of distributed software collaboration:

Nowadays we take for granted a public infrastructure of distributed version control and a lot of practices for distributed teamwork that go with it – including development teams that never physically have to meet. But these tools, and awareness of how to use them, were a long time developing. They replace whole layers of earlier practices that were once general but are now half- or entirely forgotten.

The earliest practice I can identify that was directly ancestral was the DECUS tapes. DECUS was the Digital Equipment Corporation User Group, chartered in 1961. One of its principal activities was circulating magnetic tapes of public-domain software shared by DEC users. The early history of these tapes is not well-documented, but the habit was well in place by 1976.

One trace of the DECUS tapes seems to be the README convention. While it entered the Unix world through USENET in the early 1980s, it seems to have spread there from DECUS tapes. The DECUS tapes begat the USENET source-code groups, which were the incubator of the practices that later became “open source”. Unix hackers used to watch for interesting new stuff on comp.sources.unix as automatically as they drank their morning coffee.

The DECUS tapes and the USENET sources groups were more of a publishing channel than a collaboration medium, though. Three pieces were missing to fully support that: version control, patching, and forges.

Version control was born in 1972, though SCCS (Source Code Control System) didn’t escape Bell Labs until 1977. The proprietary licensing of SCCS slowed its uptake; one response was the freely reusable RCS (Revision Control System) in 1982.

[…]

The first dedicated software forge was not spun up until 1999. That was SourceForge, still extant today. At first it supported only CVS, but it sped up the adoption of the (greatly superior) Subversion, launched in 2000 by a group for former CVS developers.

Between 2000 and 2005 Subversion became ubiquitous common knowledge. But in 2005 Linus Torvalds invented git, which would fairly rapidly obsolesce all previous version-control systems and is a thing every hacker now knows.

Questions for reviewers:

(1) Can anyone identify a conscious attempt to organize a distributed development team before nethack (1987)?

(2) Can anyone tell me more about the early history of the DECUS tapes?

(3) What other questions should I be asking?

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