Quotulatiousness

October 2, 2017

QotD: Maxims 61-70 of Maximally Effective Mercenaries

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

61. Don’t bring big grenades into small rooms.
62. Anything labelled “This end toward enemy” is dangerous at both ends.
63. The brass knows how to do it by knowing who can do it.
64. An ounce of sniper is worth a pound of suppressing fire.
65. After the toss, be the one with the pin, not the one with the grenade.
66. Necessity is the mother of deception.
67. If you can’t carry cash, carry a weapon.
68. Negotiating from a position of strength does not mean you shouldn’t also negotiate from a position near the exits.
69. Sometimes rank is a function of firepower.
70. Failure isn’t an option. It’s mandatory. The option is whether or not to let failure be the last thing you do.

“Link Weimar” (aka Howard Tayler), Seventy Maxims of Maximally Effective Mercenaries: 301st Anniversary Annotated Edition, 2017.

October 1, 2017

QotD: Maxims 51-60 of Maximally Effective Mercenaries

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

51. Let them see you sharpen the sword before you fall on it.
52. The army you’ve got is never the army you want.
53. The intel you’ve got is never the intel you want.
54. It’s only too many troops if you can’t pay them.
55. It’s only too many weapons if they’re pointing in the wrong direction.
56. Infantry exists to paint targets for people with real guns.
57. Artillery exists to launch large chunks of budget at an enemy it cannot actually see.
58. The pen is mightiest when it writes orders for swords.
59. Two wrongs is probably not going to be enough.
60. Any weapon’s rate of fire is inversely proportional to the number of available targets.

“Link Weimar” (aka Howard Tayler), Seventy Maxims of Maximally Effective Mercenaries: 301st Anniversary Annotated Edition, 2017.

September 30, 2017

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

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

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

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.

September 26, 2017

QotD: Maxims 1-10 of Maximally Effective Mercenaries

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

1. Pillage, then burn.
2. A Sergeant in motion outranks a Lieutenant who doesn’t know what’s going on.
3. An ordnance technician at a dead run outranks everybody.
4. Close air support covereth a multitude of sins.
5. Close air support and friendly fire should be easier to tell apart.
6. If violence wasn’t your last resort, you failed to resort to enough of it.
7. If the food is good enough, the grunts will stop complaining about the incoming fire.
8. Mockery and derision have their place. Usually, it’s on the far side of the airlock.
9. Never turn your back on an enemy.
10. Sometimes the only way out is through … through the hull.

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

September 14, 2017

The art of leadership and other secrets

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

In Taki’s Magazine, Steve Sailer remembers the late Jerry Pournelle, including a helpful leadership tip he once shared:

I didn’t meet Jerry until 1999, but I’d known his son Alex in high school. The Pournelle family asked me to go with them to Kansas City in August 1976 to the science-fiction convention at which Heinlein, the central American sci-fi writer of the 20th century, received his lifetime achievement award. (But I had to be at college that week.)

But Jerry, one of the great Southern California Cold Warriors, had a remarkable number of careers, starting as a teenage artillery officer during the Korean War, which deafened him in one ear. (At the lunch table, he’d choose his seat carefully to position his one remaining good ear next to his guest.)

He once recalled a question from the Army Officer Candidate School test:

    Q. You are in charge of a detail of 11 men and a sergeant. There is a 25-foot flagpole lying on the sandy, brush-covered ground. You are to erect the pole. What is your first order?

The right answer is:

    A. “Sergeant, erect that flagpole.”?

In other words, if the sergeant knows how to do it, then there’s no need for you to risk your dignity as an officer and a gentleman by issuing some potentially ludicrous order about how to erect the flagpole. And if the sergeant doesn’t know either, well, he’ll probably order a corporal to do it, and so forth down the chain of command. But by the time the problem comes back up to you, it will be well established that nobody else has any more idea than you do.

He also quotes Dave Barry’s breakdown of Pournelle’s monthly columns for Byte magazine:

In 1977 Jerry paid $12,000 to have a state-of-the-art personal computer assembled for him, supposedly to boost his productivity. By 1980 that led to his long-running “Chaos Manor” column in Byte magazine in which he would document his troubles on the bleeding edge of PC technology. As fellow word-processing aficionado Dave Barry explained jealously, Jerry got paid to mess around with his computers when he should be writing:

    Every month, his column has basically the same plot, which is:

    1. Jerry tries to make some seemingly simple change to one of his computers, such as connect it to a new printer.

    2. Everything goes hideously wrong…. Sometimes there are massive power outages all over the West Coast. Poor Jerry spends days trying to get everything straightened out.

    3. Finally…Jerry gets his computer working again approximately the way it used to, and he writes several thousand words about it for ‘Byte.’

    I swear it’s virtually the same plot, month after month, and yet it’s a popular column in a magazine that appeals primarily to knowledgeable computer people.

I like to imagine Steve Jobs circulating “Chaos Manor” columns to his executives with scribbled annotations suggesting that some people would pay good money to not have to go through all this.

September 9, 2017

Dr. Jerry Pournelle, 1933-2017

Filed under: Books — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 08:14

I saw this brief notice at Instapundit last night and shared it with my Facebook friends:

ALEX POURNELLE TEXTS:

    Hi
    I’m afraid that Jerry passed away
    We had a great time at DragonCon
    He did not suffer. Please feel free to post this news.

Rest in peace, Jerry. You will be missed.

I met Dr. Pournelle at SF conventions a couple of times, but you can’t say you knew someone on the basis of fleeting contacts like that. We did have a few minutes of discussion at one convention on the topic of why Harrison Ford’s portrayal of Indiana Jones was/was not a faithful characterization of how most people viewed archaeologists … which was highly entertaining. Although I enjoyed his SF writing, I actually thought of him more as a computer journalist, as I was a huge fan of his Chaos Manor columns in Byte magazine. As with George Orwell’s “As I please” columns, Pournelle didn’t let himself be limited to just bits and bytes and the range of topics was sometimes far outside the normal range for the magazine.

Here is his Wikipedia page.

September 8, 2017

QotD: Never ask where writers get their inspiration

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

My Dark Age adventure, Shieldwall: Barbarians! is Young Adult, meaning, in this case, Sharpe or Conan but without the shagging, and with slightly more moral compass — really you can read it as being “in the tradition of” Harold Lamb and the Pulpmeisters of Yore and ignore the YA tag. When I wrote it, I had in my head “Robert E Howard does Rosemary Sutcliff (but not that way (though they would have made a lovely couple))”.

M Harold Page, Shieldwall: Barbarians! Writing and self-publishing an old school boy’s young officer story set in Attila’s invasion”, Charlie’s Diary, 2015-06-03.

September 1, 2017

QotD: Writing as a profession

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

“Changing the world” or even “changing the world of science fiction” was never my goal, fortunately. “Not getting my utilities cut off for nonpayment of bills” was. That, happily, turned out to be a more feasible aim.

It is the nature of the book market that one cannot be financially successful without also being well-known, one’s name being one’s brand-name, more or less. Which is felt to be the means and which the end will vary from writer to writer, natch. And whether one really needs “rich and famous” or if “self-supporting and well-known in my field” will do. Beware those moving goalposts, which can always make one feel artificially bad.

“How high is up?” is one of those dangerous questions that each writer must answer for themselves. Setting goals unrealistically high guarantees frustration, too low risks not challenging oneself to do as well as one otherwise might. (As a rule of thumb, it is also better to focus on what you can do, and not on other people’s non-controllable responses. “Finish a book” is controllable, “sell a book” less so, “become a bestseller or win an award” still less so. Unhappy is the writer who boards this train wrong way round.)

As for time, it passes at exactly the same rate for everyone, regardless of how one chooses to apportion it. It’s all choices and tradeoffs. Some prices might really be too high, some rewards too meager; only the person who is leading that life can decide.

That said, when I contemplate the ever-upthrusting mountain range of reading matter in the world, effectively infinitely more than I could ever read in my remaining lifetime, I do sometimes wonder why on earth I’m trying to make more, yeah — if that were my only motivation. Except that writing is in itself an intrinsic pleasure for me, if a weird one — I sometimes wonder if writing fiction ought to be classified as a dissociative disorder. So I would likely still be making up stories even if no one else wanted them, only with less social approval.

Lois McMaster Bujold, “Ask the Author: Lois McMaster Bujold”, Goodreads, 2015-04-21.

August 31, 2017

“… as if millions of future lit-crit students suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced”

Filed under: Books, Britain, Media — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

The late Sir Terry Pratchett hatched a cunning plan to thwart the inchoate plans of uncounted would-be literary ghouls:

A hard drive containing the unfinished books of Terry Pratchett has been destroyed by a steamroller, in fulfilment of the late author’s last wishes.

The works were crushed by a vintage John Fowler & Co steamroller at the Great Dorset Steam Fair, ahead of the opening of a new exhibition about the author’s life and work. It is thought up to 10 incomplete novels were flattened.

Friend Neil Gaiman, with whom Pratchett cowrote Good Omens, had revealed in 2015 that Pratchett had instructed that he wanted “whatever he was working on at the time of his death to be taken out along with his computers, to be put in the middle of a road and for a steamroller to steamroll over them all”.

Pratchett’s former assistant Rob Wilkins tweeted that he was “about to fulfil [his] obligation to Terry”.

The hard drive will go on display as part of a major exhibition about the author’s life and work, Terry Pratchett: HisWorld, which opens at the Salisbury Museum in September.

August 24, 2017

Heinlein’s “Crazy Years”

Filed under: Books — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

In his recent USA Today column, Glenn “Instapundit” Reynolds gives a shout-out to Robert A. Heinlein’s pre-WW2-era “Future History” timeline which included a segment presciently called “The Crazy Years”:

Very early in his writing career, about 1940, science fiction writer Robert Heinlein outlined a “future history” around which much of his writing would revolve, extending from the mid-twentieth century to the 24th century. Much of what he outlined hasn’t come to pass, but he nailed it in one respect: We live in the “Crazy Years.”

The Crazy Years, in Heinlein’s timeline, were when rapid changes in technology, together with the disruption those changes caused in mores and economics, caused society to, well, go crazy. They ran from the last couple of decades of the 20th Century into the first couple of decades of the 21st. In some of his novels set in that era — Time Enough for Love, for example — he includes random assortments of headlines that may have seemed crazy enough back then, but that seem downright tame today.

I’m not the first to make this connection — science fiction writers John C. Wright and Sarah Hoyt have remarked on it, and as Hoyt notes, “these are the Crazy Years” has become something of a stock joke among Heinlein fans.

But what does that mean? As Wright observes — invoking not only Heinlein but his contemporary A.E. Van Vogt, “craziness” comes when beliefs don’t match facts:

“Craziness can be measured by maladaptive behavior. The behavior the society uses to solve one kind of problem, when applied to an incorrect category, disorients it. When this happens the whole society, even if some members are aware of the disorientation, cannot reach the correct conclusion, or react in a fashion that preserves society from harm. As if society were a dolphin that called itself a fish: when it suffered the sensation of drowning, it would dive. But a dolphin is a mammal, a member of a different category of being. When dolphins are low on air, they surface, rather than dive. Putting yourself in the wrong category leads to the wrong behavior.”

QotD: Reader demands

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

Readers often ask for more of the same, but I think in many cases that’s not what they mean; what they are really saying is, “Give me a story that will make me feel the way that one did!” Which may actually be quite a different thing, but is much harder to articulate.

(Or, for all those fractal follow-ups, there’s always Fanficwoman. To the rescue!)

Lois McMaster Bujold, “Ask the Author: Lois McMaster Bujold”, Goodreads, 2015-04-21.

August 21, 2017

QotD: The (long-running) decline of written science fiction

Filed under: Books, Liberty, Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

The problem with the Rabbits is not that left-wing politics is dessicating and poisoning their fiction. While I have made the case elsewhere that SF is libertarian at its core, it nevertheless remains possible to write left-wing message SF that is readable, enjoyable, and of high quality – Iain Banks’s Culture novels leap to mind as recent examples, and we can refer back to vintage classics such as Pohl & Kornbluth’s The Space Merchants for confirmation. Nor, I think, is the failure of Rabbit fiction to engage most SF fans and potential fans mainly down to its politics; I think the Evil League is prone to overestimate the popular appeal of their particular positions here.

No, I judge that what is dessicating and poisoning the Rabbit version of SF is something distinct from left-wing political slant but co-morbid with it: colonization by English majors and the rise of literary status envy as a significant shaping force in the field.

This is a development that’s easy to mistake for a political one because of the accidental fact that most university humanities departments have, over the last sixty years or so, become extreme-left political monocultures. But, in the language of epidemiology, I believe the politics is a marker for the actual disease rather than the pathogen itself. And it’s no use to fight the marker organism rather than the actual pathogen.

Literary status envy is the condition of people who think that all genre fiction would be improved by adopting the devices and priorities of late 19th- and then 20th-century literary fiction. Such people prize the “novel of character” and stylistic sophistication above all else. They have almost no interest in ideas outside of esthetic theory and a very narrow range of socio-political criticism. They think competent characters and happy endings are jejune, unsophisticated, artistically uninteresting. They love them some angst.

People like this are toxic to SF, because the lit-fic agenda clashes badly with the deep norms of SF. Many honestly think they can fix science fiction by raising its standards of characterization and prose quality, but wind up doing tremendous iatrogenic damage because they don’t realize that fixating on those things (rather than the goals of affirming rational knowability and inducing a sense of conceptual breakthrough) produces not better SF but a bad imitation of literary fiction that is much worse SF.

Eric S. Raymond, “SF and the damaging effects of literary status envy”, Armed and Dangerous, 2014-07-30.

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