Quotulatiousness

April 11, 2017

What is NATO?

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

Published on 25 Sep 2014

March 21, 2017

Catherine the Great – V: Potemkin, Catherine’s General, Advisor, and Lover – Extra History

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

Published on 25 Feb 2017

Catherine had many lovers during her life, but perhaps none meant so much to her as Grigory Potemkin. Although their romance did not last a lifetime, it did form the basis of a working relationship that would change the face (and future) of Europe.

January 1, 2016

Georgia: the birthplace of wine

Filed under: Europe, History, Quotations, Wine — Tags: — Nicholas @ 02:00

Michael Cecire sings the praises of Georgian wine:

“America’s New Hot Wine,” blared a Washington Post headline. “Older and Wiser,” counsels the venerable Financial Times. “The next big food and wine destination,” offers Mashable, the beating heart of the web 2.0 zeitgeist. For Georgia and its ancient winemaking tradition, the plaudits have recently come thick and fast.

And for good reason: Georgian wine is generally superb. The country boasts an embarrassing bounty of unique native grape varietals, and ancient methods that continue to confound and delight the winemaking world. And in Georgian wine, geopolitically aware connoisseurs are offered a fine pairing for their onglet a l’echalotte (for me, I recommend the dark, fierce depth of the saperavi varietal) that doubles as a kind of repudiation of Russian militarism, while giving nods to a steadfast and dependable Western friend.

But Georgia’s wine is about far more than rich tastes or a convenient reflection of a simmering contemporary conflict. Georgia’s relationship with wine is deeply, nearly indescribably old and admixed into the very core of its culture. And it’s that ancient heritage and long history that imbue it with geopolitical significance even today.

Georgia is the birthplace of wine. According to recent archeological evidence, proto-Georgian inhabitants cultivated grapes and made wine as far back as 6000 BC. Some linguists even suggest the Georgian word for wine, ghvino, is what gave wine its name. Just as striking, many of the same methods that early Georgians used to make their wine — such as using wax-lined earthenware vessels known as qvevri buried in the ground — are traditions that continue even today. Qvevri winemaking is not only historically interesting (UNESCO recognized it in its list of intangible cultural heritage in 2013), but is increasingly dealing shocks to oenophiles for the complexity and varied tones of its wines.

Georgia’s wine is not only the national drink of choice, but a symbol of Georgian identity and civilizational continuity. There are not many places where grapes are seen tended and growing in central districts, on apartment block balconies, in storefronts, and even from dingy iron-doored garages, but the Georgian capital Tbilisi is festooned with vines. Almost every family, it seems, grows grapes and makes their own wine. Indeed, some of the very best vintages in Georgia may never come from a decanter, but from the spout of a repurposed Fanta bottle drawn from a makeshift marani, or rustic Georgian wine cellar.

July 31, 2015

Rapido’s Real Train Car Restoration: 1

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

Published on 21 Jul 2015

The guys at Rapido Trains bought a full-size Pullman sleeping car and are in completely over their heads.

July 18, 2015

QotD: Sherman’s March to the Sea

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

Southerners grew confident that the besieger Sherman would become the besieged in Atlanta after the election, as his long supply lines back to Tennessee would be cut and a number of Confederate forces might converge to keep him locked up behind Confederate lines.

Instead, Sherman cut loose on November 15, 1864 — despite Grant’s worries and Lincoln’s bewilderment — and headed to the Atlantic Coast in what would soon be known as “The March to the Sea,” itself a prelude to an even more daring winter march through the Carolinas to arrive at the rear of Robert E. Lee’s army, trapped in Virginia at war’s end.

After daring Sherman to leave Atlanta, and declaring that he would suffer the fate of Napoleon in Russia, Confederate forces wilted. The luminaries of the Confederacy — Generals Bragg, Hardee, and Hood — pled numerical inferiority and usually avoided the long Northern snake that wound through the Georgia heartland. Sherman’s army had been pared down of its sick and auxiliaries, but was still huge, composed of Midwestern yeomen who liked camping out and were used to living off the land. Post-harvest Georgia was indeed rich, and Sherman’s more than 60,000 marchers soon learned that they could live off the land in richer style than they ever had while occupying Atlanta. In their wake, they left a 300 mile-long, 60 mile-wide swath of looting and destruction from Atlanta to Savannah.

Yet there was a method to Sherman’s mad five-week march. He burned plantations, freed slaves, destroyed factories, and tore up railroads — but more or less left alone the farms and small towns of ordinary Southerners. His purposes were threefold: to punish the plantation class, the small minority of Confederates who owned slaves, as the culprits for the war; to destroy the Southern economy and remind the general population, as Sherman put it, “that war and individual ruin were now to be synonymous”; and to humiliate the Confederate military, especially what he called the cavalier classes that boasted of their martial audacity but would not dare confront such a huge army of battle-hardened troopers from Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, and other Midwestern states. In this context, the message was not lost: Unionists were not just New England Yankee manufacturers, but farmers who did their own hard work in harsh, cold lands more challenging than temperate Georgia; material advantages and repeating rifles were not antithetical to martial audacity, as a Michigan farmer with a Sharps rifle was more than a match for a plumed Southern cavalryman who boasted of killing Yankees.

Victor Davis Hanson, “Sherman at 150”, Victor Davis Hanson’s Private Papers, 2014-08-06.

October 18, 2013

Newly discovered Homo erectus skulls may upset current evolutionary timeline

Filed under: Asia, History, Science — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 07:57

I can’t improve on Joey DeVilla‘s introduction to this story: “I don’t think that the skull of homo erectus throws the story of evolution into disarray. However, I do know for a fact that SAYING ‘homo erectus’ in a high school classroom will most certainly put it in disarray.” Here’s the Guardian article by Ian Sample:

The spectacular fossilised skull of an ancient human ancestor that died nearly two million years ago in central Asia has forced scientists to rethink the story of early human evolution.

Anthropologists unearthed the skull at a site in Dmanisi, a small town in southern Georgia, where other remains of human ancestors, simple stone tools and long-extinct animals have been dated to 1.8m years old.

Experts believe the skull is one of the most important fossil finds to date, but it has proved as controversial as it is stunning. Analysis of the skull and other remains at Dmanisi suggests that scientists have been too ready to name separate species of human ancestors in Africa. Many of those species may now have to be wiped from the textbooks.

The latest fossil is the only intact skull ever found of a human ancestor that lived in the early Pleistocene, when our predecessors first walked out of Africa. The skull adds to a haul of bones recovered from Dmanisi that belong to five individuals, most likely an elderly male, two other adult males, a young female and a juvenile of unknown sex.

[…]

David Lordkipanidze at the Georgian National Museum, who leads the Dmanisi excavations, said: “If you found the Dmanisi skulls at isolated sites in Africa, some people would give them different species names. But one population can have all this variation. We are using five or six names, but they could all be from one lineage.”

If the scientists are right, it would trim the base of the human evolutionary tree and spell the end for names such as H rudolfensis, H gautengensis, H ergaster and possibly H habilis.

The fossil is described in the latest issue of Science.

“Some palaeontologists see minor differences in fossils and give them labels, and that has resulted in the family tree accumulating a lot of branches,” said White. “The Dmanisi fossils give us a new yardstick, and when you apply that yardstick to the African fossils, a lot of that extra wood in the tree is dead wood. It’s arm-waving.”

August 9, 2012

KittyCam project proves they are cute, cuddly … and deadly

Filed under: Environment, Randomness — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 08:40

Do you let your cat out into the great outdoors? If you’re fond of other small creatures, you may want to reconsider that policy:

Those cute kittens whose faces are peer from endless posts on Pinterest are actually predators, and a third of those trailed in a county in Georgia are wandering around outdoors capturing and killing other animals.

The army of assassins was discovered by folks from the University of Georgia and the National Geographic Society, who strapped video cameras around the necks of 60 cats to record their atrocities for a year in a project known as KittyCam.

[. . .]

“In Athens-Clarke County, we found that about 30 per cent of the sampled cats were successful in capturing and killing prey, and that those cats averaged about one kill for every 17 hours outdoors or 2.1 kills per week.

[. . .]

“If we extrapolate the results of this study across the country and include feral cats, we find that cats are likely killing more than four billion animals per year, including at least 500 million birds,” Dr George Fenwick, president of American Bird Conservancy, cried indignantly.

“Cat predation is one of the reasons why one in three American bird species are in decline.”

July 17, 2011

In the aftermath of Georgia’s “victory” over illegal farm workers

Filed under: Americas, Law, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 11:54

Last month, I linked to a story about Georgia’s attempt to crack down on illegal agricultural workers. It was, in terms of achieving its stated goals, a big success: illegal workers left in droves for other jurisdictions. It wasn’t quite as successful from the point of view of farmers:

To combat the shortage, Governor Nathan Deal has authorized using criminal offenders out on probation to replace the mostly Latino migrant workers. It’s not working out so well:

    The first batch of probationers started work last week at a farm owned by Dick Minor…So far, the experiment at Minor’s farm is yielding mixed results. On the first two days, all the probationers quit by mid-afternoon, said Mendez, one of two crew leaders at Minor’s farm.

    “Those guys out here weren’t out there 30 minutes and they got the bucket and just threw them in the air and say, ‘Bonk this, I ain’t with this, I can’t do this,’” said Jermond Powell, a 33-year-old probationer. “They just left, took off across the field walking.”…

H/T to John Henke for the link.

June 21, 2011

In unrelated news, Georgia now has farm issues

Filed under: Americas, Law, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 10:14

After a passing a hugely successful bill to exclude illegal immigrants from the state, politicians are astounded to find that actions do have consequences:

After enacting House Bill 87, a law designed to drive illegal immigrants out of Georgia, state officials appear shocked to discover that HB 87 is, well, driving a lot of illegal immigrants out of Georgia.

It might be funny if it wasn’t so sad.

Thanks to the resulting labor shortage, Georgia farmers have been forced to leave millions of dollars’ worth of blueberries, onions, melons and other crops unharvested and rotting in the fields. It has also put state officials into something of a panic at the damage they’ve done to Georgia’s largest industry.

Barely a month ago, you might recall, Gov. Nathan Deal welcomed the TV cameras into his office as he proudly signed HB 87 into law. Two weeks later, with farmers howling, a scrambling Deal ordered a hasty investigation into the impact of the law he had just signed, as if all this had come as quite a surprise to him.

Driving out competing labour from illegal immigrants has created a lot of farm labour jobs for Georgia’s unemployed citizens, but for some unexpected reason, they’re not moving into those jobs:

According to the survey, more than 6,300 of the unclaimed jobs pay an hourly wage of just $7.25 to $8.99, or an average of roughly $8 an hour. Over a 40-hour work week in the South Georgia sun, that’s $320 a week, before taxes, although most workers probably put in considerably longer hours. Another 3,200 jobs pay $9 to $11 an hour. And while our agriculture commissioner has been quoted as saying Georgia farms provide “$12, $13, $14, $16, $18-an-hour jobs,” the survey reported just 169 openings out of more than 11,000 that pay $16 or more.

In addition, few of the jobs include benefits — only 7.7 percent offer health insurance, and barely a third are even covered by workers compensation. And the truth is that even if all 2,000 probationers in the region agreed to work at those rates and stuck it out — a highly unlikely event, to put it mildly — it wouldn’t fix the problem.

August 7, 2009

DDoS attacks target one pro-Georgian user

Filed under: Technology — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 07:35

I find this hard to credit, but CBS says that yesterday’s distributed denial-of-service attacks on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Blogger, and LiveJournal were all aimed at one particular user:

The blogger, who uses the account name “Cyxymu,” (the name of a town in the Republic of Georgia) had accounts on all of the different sites that were attacked at the same time, Max Kelly, chief security officer at Facebook, told CNET News.

“It was a simultaneous attack across a number of properties targeting him to keep his voice from being heard,” Kelly said. “We’re actively investigating the source of the attacks and we hope to be able to find out the individuals involved in the back end and to take action against them if we can.”

Kelly declined to speculate on whether Russian nationalists were behind the attack, but said: “You have to ask who would benefit the most from doing this and think about what those people are doing and the disregard for the rest of the users and the Internet.”

Twitter was down for several hours beginning early Thursday morning, and suffered periodic slowness and time-outs throughout the day.

If it turns out that this is true, I guess it’ll be easier to start looking for the controller of the massive botnet that conducted the attacks . . . and probably has a physical presence near the Kremlin.

Update: The Guardian has more on the story.

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