Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Be Strong, Rush

Get well soon.

I've still got 6 months paid up on my 24/7 membership.

Umm, Bacon

Fellow Tyler blogger Robert Langham put up a post last Saturday that illustrates the inescapable quandary faced by those of us carrying concealed handguns - we can never be prepared enough.

I initially intended to note that it would be useful to know if unprocessed sausage here was immortalised out back of beyond or beyond my backyard fence, but I see from a subsequent update that this was likely from Robert's deer lease, so the in-town green belts probably aren't this unsafe yet.

My point still being that, no matter how much pistol and ammo you pack about your person, you simply are not going to be able to carry enough for every likely threat scenario, never mind the merely plausible like that captured by Robert's typically excellent photography above. To coin a phrase, carry your damn gun, people; indeed, carry as much gun as your circumstance permits. Spend what's required to load it with quality, effective ammunition. Most importantly though, never forget that you're carrying a defensive weapon for use in escaping the immediate threat, not attacking it. Whether it's ribs-n-hocks here or Hugger the Mugger down the alley, your CHL doesn't empower you to go forth and challenge the potential threat, never mind initiate combat.

That's the line between defense and offense.

I'm all for good challenging training. Just be sure that the correct (as defined by the terms of your state's license) mindset is a prominent part of it. I know; judged by 12 instead of carried by 6, blah blah blah. I say, better to get it right in the first place so that the long and the short of it afterwards is the pork processing fee.

Long. Pork. Get it?


Tuesday, December 29, 2009


How come I never get spam like this? I blog from the same town.

It's a plot against the unphotogenic, I tell you!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Sheet Music Distribution

Robert Stacy McCain expands on an initial RedState report concerning an unprecedented conference being held in Israel throughout this week (27-31 Dec). All Israeli Ambassadors, Consuls General and Heads of Mission have been ordered to attend, something which has never occurred in the country's all too turbulent history. RedState poster Kenny Solomon makes it plain he believes this to be a precursor to Israel taking overt (and presumably military) action in the near future - probably in the general direction of Iran.

Given who all else is known to be invited, I'm not so sure just how highly that legitimate concern is actually going to rank on the itinerary. The presence of Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer (head of the country's central bank) makes me fairly confident that concern over the reliability of the US$ as the benchmark currency has to be in the low single digit section of the topic priority list. While Israel's reliance on US aid financing (not to mention civilian investment) is likely part of Mr Fischer's presentation, the precise nature and degree of dependency all three of Israel's cross-border neighbors, not to mention at least 6 other arms-length regional powers, have on US financial support has to be of even greater importance. None of the 9 or 10 other countries (I potentially include Gaza in amongst this number) involved is led by especially stable political regimes. The question of just how likely any (or what association of them) might be willing to seriously consider the short victorious war option will be greatly influenced by their separate and shared financial condition, should the US$ indeed go TU in the near-term.

Whatever comes under discussion, I think it most unlikely that anything is being actually scheduled for unilateral action by Israel's leaders. Were that the case, we'd be seeing a great many more El Al flights in-bound to Ben Gurion, with a noticeable passenger compliment of people in the age 20 to 50 range, than we do so far.

The Israelis are worried enough to start getting their ducks all in a row; that ought to be worrisome enough for the rest of us all on it's own. Let's hope at least some of Pres. Obama's Hawaii vacation briefings cover this development with greater confidence of accuracy then I can offer.

I am Immortalised

Well, digitally anyway.

I'll just go check my hat's fit again. :)

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Confirmation of Principle

It is a premise of strategic thought that confrontation can best be reduced/minimised/avoided by resorting to the technique of re-framing the context within which the conflict is structured. IOW, to alter the conditions that permit or support a fight taking place. I have written on this topic before.

I have just been introduced to a blog called The Last Psychiatrist. Not seeming to have a traditional "Who is ..." link, there is this in the archive section: "A blog about mercantilism and fourth generation warfare.", which sheds light on what follows.

In the post titled Intentionality of Treatment, our anonymous author cites an experiment testing the validity of the influence preconception and belief have on the physical outcome resulting from some stimulus to an individual (Link to the actual experiment report). The experiment is structured to measure the difference in perceived as well as physiological response to intentional and unintentional pain stimulus. My belief is that individual pain is also a viable substitute for individual threat or strategic positional challenge, even though the experiment didn't specifically address that supposition. The Last Psychiatrist identifies the result as cognitive reframing and offers this initial observation:

"Cognitive reframing can be used everywhere.

There are plenty of examples related to pain, but it's better if this can be applied more generally. When things are bad, is there a way to experience them as less bad? Instead of studying something as vague as "sadness" or "anxiety" let's look at something concrete: losing money."

Follow the link for the specifics, but what is demonstrated is that how one views an action, the context within which one considers or responds to something, has a measurable effect on one's response. This complies with the strategic premises addressing competition and conflict between positions. Following from Sun Tzu's dictum, "the best general is one who wins without fighting", it can be seen that cognitive reframing is a summation of the combined tactics of alliance and maneuver to defeat an enemy by less-direct means.

"But the important part of this message is that a person's experience of anything is very much influenced by context, presentation.

Psychiatry has adopted a policy of pulling aside the curtain: letting the patient in on the language usually reserved for practitioners, which is fine, except that it is almost always misunderstood."

The bing fa, the philosophy that underlies Sun Tzu's strategic treatise, is very much applicable to the individual, but is structured such that it expands quite smoothly up through the group to the civilizational level of implementation. It would seem that it also extends into the therapeutic realm as well, both in application as well as general misunderstanding. I submit that at least some of the psychological conditions people consult psychiatrists and psychologists for might be positively addressed by inclusion of the philosophy Sun Tzu promulgated into the individual context we each consider the world from.

Thanks Labrat.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

@ Venessa Miemis

Who's work I discovered at Future Blogger.

The Young Miss (I suppose - she doesn't make that degree of personal data obvious on her blog [Note to self: just how obvious does she have to make her "Who is ..." link anyway? Venessa is indeed married]) is a Master's candidate " in New Media Studies at the New School in NYC, [where] she has been passionately thinking and writing about the future for seven years". She indeed writes well and clearly gives thought to her topic du jour, but I suspect her passion may be creeping into an overly dominant influence on her thinking process; there is a noticeable lack of criticality in some of her writing.

An example of this is evident in a post of hers from late Sept of this year, in which she said:

"How can the power and scope of social networks, combined with human capital metrics, be used to facilitate shared creation and innovation?

It’s becoming more accepted that collaboration, not competition, is a more effective avenue towards producing emergent, innovative results. Now that millions of people participate in online social networks, it seems high time to develop a system of matching people’s skill sets with common values and goals in order to bring about positive change."

Any student of strategy recognises that collaboration only occurs as a result of the demands imposed by competition. Only competition provides the stimulus necessary to obtain control over that beyond our individual needs of the moment; to stockpile against future requirements potentially threatened by the competing needs of others or acquire allies in our efforts to do so. Even at the most basic biologic level, the requirements of the competitive process leading to successful procreation are the principal social (and other) drivers of enduring relationships between individuals (and seem the likely progenitor motivation of familial community from which tribal structures appear to have developed).

So, in a word, "No", collaboration is not replacing competition. Indeed, the former is a direct derivative of the latter; an expression in response to it.

It is important that competition be recognised as the fundamental human (and arguably mammalian) default position of interactivity, especially if one seeks to gain insight into (and from) the interaction displayed on Twitter as Miss Miemis does.

A better grasp of the distinction between strategy and tactic would also be helpful it appears. Hint: in the nifty chart provided, before and after both depict a transactional process between seller and buyer; the strategy is identical. The tactical difference between them is indeed profound, but it's not a strategy.

All props to Mr. Scoble (or possibly Mr. Sagolla), but how is this in any way structurally different (other than the message character limitation) from the pre-existing multiple blogs to coordinate different areas of interest already developed on Blogger and other platforms? I suppose my question is, does the added transparency Twitter brings to the digital connectivity process actually rise to the level of difference that seems to be implied by this and other posts at Emergent By Design?

And then there's the magical thinking that always seems to creep into these speculative essays. Frankly, there is no mechanism whereby independently innovative thought (that is, innovative data/conceptual representation originating independently from any of the individual - and all-too-human - twitterers) (tweeters?) can be formulated within the existing communication infrastructure within which Twitter and other digital communication networks/platforms exist. As well, Our Venessa seemingly displays an incredible lack of skepticism towards establishing the veracity and/or reliability of twitter content. This is not a personal criticism but a comment directed at the seeming lack of recognition she displays regarding the shallow-to-nonexistent mechanism for content verification such social interface mechanisms offer in their existing iteration.

And, to pre-empt the obvious retort (that the communication metaverse is actually a simulacra of a physical mind), might I recommend that she add Niall Ferguson's The Ascent of Money to her current holiday reading list. I further suggest paying particular attention to his discussion of the contributing factors and development process of the intellectual construct known as the economic or financial "bubble". I contend that the current state of unverifiable data integrity that both twitter and it's predecessor blogosphere currently labor under are nothing more (nor, potentially catastrophically, less) than the digital equivalent of the same intellectual failing Ferguson describes so understandably.

It is necessary that many people undertake the challenge Miss Miemis has; she is quite correct in her evaluation of the speed and scope of technologic and conceptual change we humans hopefully face over the next few decades (at least). As well, the successful incorporation of this technology into our social and business processes will rest largely on how well she and others achieve that transition. I'm quite impressed with her documented progress to-date and intend to consult her work in future. A measure of passion and enthusiasm for one's topic is certainly helpful, most especially when it is balanced with a corresponding tincture of skeptical criticality. A bit less of the scientific wonderment along with a dose of engineering rigour, if you will, would add some structural integrity to her researches I think.

Writing at his blog Metamodern, Eric Drexler (yes, that Eric Drexler) recommends the book Infotopia by Cass R. Sunstein saying, "Sunstein explores how groups and societies succeed and fail in what is arguably their most vital task: drawing out and assembling pieces of knowledge that are scattered among many minds." This would seem a likely format upon which Venessa and other researchers might base their efforts to extract pertinent data from the Twitter data stream as well as formulate a standard protocol whereby data might be evaluated for reliability and validity within the Twitter format.

Friday, December 25, 2009

The war's not over yet it seems

It appears that the enemy isn't willing to just roll over and wait for us to give up all on our own.

ABC News link
Fox News link

I thought the following from the Fox report telling:

Passenger Syed Jafri, a U.S. citizen who had flown from the United Arab Emirates, said the incident occurred during the plane's descent. Jafri said he was seated three rows behind the passenger and said he saw a glow, and noticed a smoke smell. Then, he said, "a young man behind me jumped on him."

If "young man" is never publicly identified, he's likely an air marshal; either way, well done you. [Update 12/26: per CBS News, the gentleman in question is Mr. Jasper Schuringa from Holland. And again I say, "Well done, Sir."]

I suppose the pressing question of the moment has to be, is this a one-off, or only part of an al qaeda-trademark multiple attack operation?

h/t to Fire Andrea Mitchel blog, via The Other McCain/Hot Blogs sidebar

Update ~ 30 min later: Drudge is linking saying in headline; Obama Orders Heightened Security After Disturbance on Plane, which seems a small but significant escalation of response from earlier. Or, at least as likely, an example of how early information is often wrong in ways both small and large. As is usual with circumstance of this nature, cautious patience is the smartest option.

Update part deux: In related news, these guys obviously don't spend much effort reading the more conservative portions of the US blogosphere apparently. Way to stiff'n a politically snivelly lip there fellas. Hold tight Pfc. Bergdahl.

Yo, Tam

Is this a Turse?

Happy Xmas to me.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Is Al Gore In Town?

It's Global Warming here now. It's not quite cold enough for it to stick to the ground yet, but the roof and car tops are all turning white. I doubt tomorrow will actually qualify as a Snow Day, but even an inch or two is unusual around here.

Happy Christmas to all two of you (assuming Alvis is still extant :)) and anybody else who happens to wander through.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


When even someone as cautious and experienced as Jerry Pournelle openly refers to our elected government as "Despotic", it may indeed be time to start assembling the field gear and other supplies.

That it continues to come down to this ...

Monday, December 21, 2009

Stupid On Steroids

I really don't look forward to continuing this subject, but this bit of titular vainglory simply can't be allowed to pass uncommented upon.

"The Constitution makes no differentiation between freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and the right to keep and bear arms. They are all equal rights, equally enshrined in the bill of rights. So printing a database that infringes on any of those rights is equivalently bad, regardless of which right it infringes upon. However, the quote from Anonymous above really hits it for me – right now, the government isn’t doing this. It’s the media, it’s private parties. So we should protest it loudly now, because when the government starts printing lists of gun owners, we are already screwed."

I can live with the absurd assumption that a local newspaper printing something somehow rises to the level of Constitutional infringement. There's even a quasi-plausible argument to support such a contention, I suppose, though I question just how effective such campaigns have actually proven to be. The gentleman himself subsequently and positively links to an example of a local business taking a public stance in just such a contention.

I submit, however, that this is an entirely different matter from the remainder of the quoted paragraph.

Since it apparently has to be made explicitly plain, consider the following question; from what source or data repository did the two newspapers in question cull the information they posted on-line?

Take your time; we'll wait.

Has it come to you yet? In case not, let me ask this: do you seriously contend that it is critical that people oppose newspapers printing lists culled from public government data records "... because when the government starts printing lists of gun owners, we are already screwed"?

I don't know about yellow stars, stud, but here's your sign!

I leave it as an intellectual exercise for the recipients to figure out why it's round.

- - - -

Update a few minutes later: In a probably useless attempt to head off the egregiously stupid, let me just add this.

The government makes explicitly plain to the voluntary participants in a government licensing effort that the personal data they submit will be maintained as a matter of public record.

A local entity exercises it's entirely legal access to said data repository and further makes those portions it regards of local relevance available to the public.

This action is held to be an infringement on the constitutional rights of those individuals who chose to create the "government list" in the first place as well as being a pre-cursor to government constitutional abrogation, if not outright genocide.

Now pull the other one, it's got bells attached.

Attempting to smear the reputations of law-abiding citizens is certainly repugnant and fully worthy of financial and other forms of shamming and rebuke. I support and encourage others to join the Harley-Davidson dealer as well as the NRA/ILA effort to do that very thing. I hope that what I have written on various web forums on this topic will be regarded as some contribution to that effort as well. But as to the rest? Pfffttt!

Narvous Makin'

Ok, this is starting to become a bit nerve-wracking. Not the general political and insurance reform/health care legislation topic of the linked-to article, that's just Emperor's New Clothes stuff. I'm referring to the open and frank discussion of secession in the comments, bordering on recommendation.

You know, secession; armed revolt; civil war.

What are we doing to ourselves?

Yes Redux

Now this is how you respond to a circumstance as discussed at the links included here. Get allies.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Here's Your Health Care Reform!

First up is Epigenetic Therapy, a method to control the group of molecules that sit atop and control activation of our individual DNA.

Next up, we have this modest announcement, "Cancer Breakthrough! Scientists crack 'entire genetic code' of lung and skin cancer.". Being able to manipulate defective DNA via precise chemical treatment prior to the cancer developing fully certainly seems promising.

And, to round out today's trifecta, there's this: delivery of the first production model 3D Bio-Printer. Need a new organ (or any other body part)? Order one from the factory/lab to your custom genetic requirements. No "body farm", no chance of tissue rejection, though still requiring major invasive surgery.

We're beginning to see the realisation of the SENS strategy. If we can only just keep sweeping back the tide for that little bit longer, we can all take our chance to rise with it.

h/t to Brian Wang and my friends at The Speculist. Live to see it, indeed.

Saturday, December 19, 2009


I first posted what follows as a comment on Tam's blog but wish to provide a forum for discussion or objection on my own real estate as well. For better context, first read this piece by RobertaX followed by this rebuttal by Joanna. For added background and commentary, see this post by Caleb. Forthwith, me:

"I think, my fellow gunnies, that far too many of us just faced a threat - and flinched. Badly.

As I believe is the case in most states that require licensure, certainly when I applied for mine, I did so in the full knowledge that it was not a confidential transaction. That the state (Texas in my personal experience) would indeed maintain a public database regarding my status much like it does regarding my vehicular driving record. As to all of that, nothing about having that data made available in some alternate forum changes my status or condition in any way.

The suggestion of retaliating by publishing abortion proceedure recipient's identities does not equate, IMO, because there is a specific expectation of privacy both in custom and in law in regard to the medical conditions and proceedures we confront in life. Even publicly considering such an action damages the reputations of gun owners and supporters of same, whether or not actually undertaken.

For myself, I decided to carry a gun because I accepted that my safety is ultimately my own responsibility. I knew at the time I made the choice that there were many of my fellow citizens who didn't agree with my assessment or trusted me to act responsibly. That some few of them have (and continue) to act callously with regard to my (or, indeed, potentially their own as well) safety does not justify my, or any other purportedly responsible adult, reacting in kind.

Since taking up guns in self defense, I have trained as well as my circumstance permits in anticipation of confronting just such a potentiality. It has been my presumption that those who decided similarly to myself would do the same. Given the tenor of the present example, I fear that hope is now seriously called into question.

Nothing has changed, people; there are still those who mean us harm and we still accept responsibility to undertake our own defense should some other take the decision to harm us or those we love or simply share a circumstance with, however fleetingly. In my judgement, the more proper response to these annoyances is a stolid look and a "Yes."

Honor isn't just a David Weber character and always exacts some price. I confess some small relief the bill is so diminutive this time."

h/t to ... well, everybody mentioned above. For the rest, "come and take them".

Thursday, December 17, 2009

To Infinity ... or not, maybe

Gunbloggers doing Space and Singularity.

This could get interesting once we settle on terms and such. One thing seems certain, the discussion in his comments won't get too out of bounds, what with the other interest of the involved parties.

via Kevin Baker, who I didn't know geeked in quite this way before now.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Forget effigy ...

just go for straight up martyrdom.

"As many as 75 people - some of them carrying torches - surrounded the mansion, known as University House, on the north side of campus off Hearst Avenue at about 11:15 p.m. Friday, police said.

The crowd, including a man taken into custody in a university protest a day earlier, chanted, "No justice, no peace," and began smashing planters, windows and lights. Several hurled their torches at the building, said campus spokesman Dan Mogulof.

Birgeneau was sleeping at the time and was awakened by his wife, Mary Catherine, Mogulof said."

Bonfire of the vanities, indeed.

h/t: (yes, I'll own it) The Other McCain

Sunday, December 13, 2009


Some inspired story telling here; go ye hence and be amazed.

Phil Bowermaster, I told you so. :) (Ok, it was a year or two ago, but still ...)

As mentioned yesterday, even if it took 'till after noon, the fog and grey skies have vanished, it's blue from one horizon right around the view and (somewhat brisk) tank-top weather today. Laundry is finishing up as I type. I tell you, this E. Texas winter weather can be brutal; why, do you realise that I actually had to put a long-sleeved T-shirt on over a normal sleeveless model along with socks in my tennies earlier this week (as well as a jacket, no less)? The brutality of it all ...

Saturday, December 12, 2009


I sympathise.

It's cold and rainy outside and I have a sufficiency of groceries in my apartment. The weather forecast for tomorrow OTOH is for sunny sky's with temps into the upper 50's.

Laundry and the last few shopping items will just have to wait 'till then.

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Apocalypse Descendith

School children all over this county are wailing in frustration at the mid-day hour appearance. Town drivers are appalled in their anticipation of the near-universal panic they can anticipate during their commute this afternoon and evening. Store shelves are emptying as I type.

It has begun to snow here in the proto-urban environs of E. Texas.

'Ware away, traveller.

Update: Apparently, this may be a somewhat more atypical event then I initially thought.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Climate and Strategy

In classical strategy, Sun Tzu designated as "environment" those things and/or events over which an individual has no control or even direct influence beyond his personal sphere - earthquake, weather, seasonal variation, temperature (and from this, the modern delineation of Natural Laws and concepts become included) and ocean tides, belief and even human nature are only some examples. The fundamental defining characteristic of this classification is that the event is effectively a fixed condition on a human time scale, however periodic it's actual occurrence might appear. It should be recognised too, that some of these can also apply to other strategic classifications in a given context. Chinese being a multi-tonal language a word's meaning varies by verbal inflection and enunciation. Similarly, a particular written character can have different and often entirely unrelated meaning depending upon the context within which it is being used. Given that "climate" is another classification Sun Tzu employed for more transitory or human influencable occurrences, it can be seen that sometimes actual weather can be either Environment or Climate. This is what occasionally passes for a less bloody example of strategic "humor", as in: Confusion to the Enemy (since why should we be the only ones?)!

In the currently accepted meaning of the word climate, Eric S. Raymond notes that events appear to be building to a point of strategic upheaval. The classic formation of contesting positions allying together to advance toward some mutually advantageous objective seems, in the case of the AGW Global Warming theorists at least, to be entering the next - and fully predictable - phase of any such alliance; dissolution.

While it is theoretically possible for such alliances to end peacefully, as a practical matter, they come apart due to one or more members seeking individual advantage at the expense of an ally once continued general advancement of position begins to exact what is individually perceived as excess expense (or only just excessive potential for such):
"I can almost pity the poor AGW spinmeisters. Perhaps they still think they can put a political fix in to limit the damage from the CRU leak. But what’s happening now is that other scientists who have seen the business end of the hockey team’s fraud, stonewalling, and bullying are beginning to speak out. The rate of collapse is accelerating."
A current example of this is cited by Anthony Watts in this post about Penn State investigating the actions of Prof. Michael Mann in regards to his involvement in the Hadley CRU revelations. Since the university is itself party to the events (it gained financially from Mann's behavior), it remains to be seen whether or not the school's self-interest makes it necessary to alter the terms of it's alliance with Mr. Mann to his actual, as opposed to only his apparent, disadvantage. That determination will, in large part, be dependant upon the rate and extent of the collapse Eric remarked on.

A student of strategy must necessarily apply an historical viewpoint to his deliberations. This leads to a recognition of the transient nature of most of the positional distinctions we confront in life. It also leads to the conclusion that, most of the time, the people most enthusiastic or vehement about some position over some other, aren't really the one's best situated to achieve greatest advancement thereby. Maintaining the appearance of neutrality on a given issue or controversy adds value to one's personal position as a potential ally.

Friday, November 13, 2009

For Alvis Brigis

Who will appreciate this on multiple levels and is in need of expansion of his conceptual horizons (hint: follow the link and sample from the L/H sidebar links - it's occasionally a bit of a stretch, but the concepts examined therein applies to our technology future as much as it does to the intended topic).

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

What day is this?

As observed widely around the innertubes, today's holiday commemorates the ending of the first world war in 1918. Here in the US we have decided to take the opportunity to also recognise all military veterans for their former service to the country.

To re-iterate, we memorialize those who died in military service on the last Monday of the month of May each year. We also celebrate the military service of those who survived the experience as well.

Please, do not continue to conflate the two events; I'm confused enough as it is.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Evolution In Action*

There are a number of recognised methods for responding to a rhetorical challenge on the Internet; the tried-and-true casual obscenity, the ad hominem attack from the more literary aspiring as well as the usually devastating Fisking with the ultimate recourse being the dreaded Ban. Up to now, at least.

Followers of the LGF/Hot Air (and seemingly endless list of others) public conniptions of recent months duration will especially appreciate that a new form of literary response has arrived on the Blogging Scene - the Comic Retort. Frankly, I doubt there are all that many with the native talent/creative software skills required to pull this conversational gambit off well, which only serves to make the present example even more appreciated. As ever, opinions vary of course, but I for one offer credit for originality of the current example and look forward to future development of the literary form in future.

You takes your pleasure where you finds it as it were.

* Bonus credits to those who can identify the Pournelle/Niven novel in which the titular sentiment was originally expressed.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Games People Play

Update: Messed up the links; fixed now (I think).

Let me preface this by stipulating that I have precisely zero experience with digital games, and effectively the same with fantasy role-playing games regardless of format. That said, I do have some knowledge of their potential as more than personal time-sink/entertainment. Now comes my blog-friend Stephen Gordon with his own creation to challenge gamers everywhere.

Did I mention it's a free download?

Granted my lack of expertise with the subject, what I find most intriguing about Stephen's game is that it seems to encourage and reward creative adherence to historical accuracy amongst the players without requiring them to master a complex set of rules and guidelines prior to commencing play. One of the things I'm hoping those more experienced of the genre can ascertain is how much this is actually the case and how such a process might be reinforced without damaging the game-playing experience itself.

It has long been my personal belief that games of this nature could serve as instructional vehicles into the workings of language, mathematics and the sciences generally if having to master those (and other) subjects could be plausibly incorporated into an otherwise challenging game format. Think Halo, but the player has to accurately figure ballistic performance and blast coefficients in a given situation in order to advance into the highest (and most rewarding) stages of play. The same sort of structure could equally apply to multiple language fluency or application of the tenants of the physical sciences as well, I think (if you're old enough, a game in which every player has to demonstrate the talents of MacGuyver in order to best succeed). I suspect such an endeavor would work best as subsidiary elements within a more complex structure like that of the game Civilisation or the on-line environment The Sims or the like, but I don't think this is an actual requirement or reason not to create such games in the absence of a recognisable structure to place them within.

Again, I congratulate Stephen and look forward to more and better in future.

Friday, September 11, 2009


I don't ordinarily memorialize the day, there are so many others who do so much better than I am capable of. Some things ought to be sacred and, let's face it, I'm just not. That said, I happened across a quote I do think appropriate to our remembrance of the events of that day:

"I suppose it's probably inaccurate to say that firefighters "kick ass", since the main difference between firefighters and Vikings is that when you see a firefighter coming after you with a giant axe you generally feel relieved rather than terrified ..."

The actual article* the quote is from isn't 9/11 specific, but the sentiment seems fitting nonetheless.

* Should profanity offend you, don't click on the link provided; the url is arguably the least profane sentence on the whole page. Strongly recommended reading every Friday at the least.

Monday, September 7, 2009

More Kevin; Framing The Question, with Addendum

Yesterday I linked to this Kevin Baker post and enjoyed the referred to movie again last night.

Today I wish to take a pass at what I perceive to be Kevin's underlying issue.

There is a technique that most people associate with formal verbal debate commonly known as "re-framing the question". The tactic of altering the context within which your opponent has referenced his most telling points against your position can frequently be achieved by modifying the context within which they are refuted. I think Kevin's quandary regarding "rights" is largely the result of the effect of this linguistic ploy arising from the accumulation of historical debate of the issue.

To exist at all, a frame must first be constructed; herewith, my attempt at such.

The bing fa, from the document which was introduced to the non-chinese speaking world as The Art of War, is a self-referential system having applicability to virtually any form of human political or social structure, but which relies upon it's own internal ethos to achieve consistency and avoid contradiction. It can be applied successfully by virtually anyone in almost any circumstance within which a human being can survive and function with some degree of individuality and independence. I am not prepared to argue that it can be successfully applied entirely independent of any other form of human social construct, but I do assert that the inherent ethos I mentioned earlier resolves the logical inconsistency that so troubles Kevin:
"The core of the discussion to date has involved three primary questions:

A) Are there "absolute, positive, unquestionable, fundamental, ultimate rights" that exist regardless of whether a society recognizes (much less protects) them;

B) do those rights belong to all people, everywhere, at all times, simply because they are human - and;

C) are those rights "self-evident?"

My answer is: A) Yes; B) No; and C) Self evident to whom?

Yes, I realize that position A) contradicts my initial "what a society believes it is" statement, but bear with me. I believe in Rand's "one fundamental right," and have so stated in earlier posts. The source of that right I have stated before:


Or Nature. Yaweh. Christ. Vishnu, Mother Gaia, Barney the Dinosaur. I don't know, nor do I care overly much, but reason works for me.

I believe that right is "real" because I believe that - given the chance - average specimens of humanity will conclude through reason that they are of value (to themselves if no one else), and that their physical selves and the product of their labor belongs to them and not another.

It's in what comes after that "one fundamental right" that we begin to run into problems. Let's proceed backwards. Are the "Rights of Man" self-evident? Then:

1. List them. All.

2. Illustrate which are axioms and which are corollaries of those axioms.

3. Explain why every society in history has violated all or at least the overwhelming majority of these rights, if they're absolute, positive, unquestionable, fundamental, ultimate, and self-evident.

4. Explain what a society that honored and protected these rights would look like. And, finally,

5. Explain why such a society does not now exist and never has."

My contribution to the discussion has to do with the source issue, the question regarding from whence "rights" emanate, as I believe most of the succeeding quandaries are so because of the traditional assertion(s).

The Bing Fa assumes that the act of individual birth presents each and every human with an inheritance of opportunity; Stephen Hawking, myself and Kevin are each, equally and independently, the inheritors of exactly the same opportunity simply as a result of our successful live birth. No deity figure required (though such is certainly not necessarily excluded either; intervention by a Deity is simply not required for whatever follows the unique act of cellular procreation our parents contrived between themselves). Thus it can be safely asserted that all humans are born equally opportune, I think. What we subsequently make of all that is a separate matter, and therein lies the "right" of it, I suggest.

Our individual opportunity from birth doesn't guarantee anything, of course; catastrophic natural event, violent invaders or simple poor hygiene can abruptly curtail our individual development of opportunity, as can the social context (there's that Ayn Rand influence again :)) within which we seek to do so. It is far more likely that it is this last that will influence us than anything else other than a predatory family member. That last being notoriously hard to control for by any measure not involving the most direct of individual means, let's look at that social context proposition in a bit more detail.

Sun Tzu observed that the best General was the one who achieved the objective by the least damaging means, and worded the concept variously throughout his treatise to emphasize it's importance. Extended to the extreme of a social context, this could be taken to mean that the "best" citizen is that one who achieves both personal and societal success at the least cost or damage to both him/her self and to the society within which s/he happens to live (at the most extreme, the entire planetary or even galactic or universal social context within which both exist). The obverse of that definition being that the "best" free person - the one most fully exercising rights at least damage to all else - might very well prove to be a very bad "citizen" indeed.

In any final analysis of action or deliberation, we are all each our own "General" in that we all possess the ultimate authority to decide every question to the degree to which we are a party. That being true, it follows that we are each fully responsible for all that results from our decision - by way of extreme example, if we agree that the equivalent of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were again to become necessary at some point, then we would be fully responsible for every radiated body that resulted from that decision. Own it. Accept also that a refusal to actively decide an issue is a form of decision itself and doesn't entail any obviation of the subsequent responsibility.

So, in a social context, we are each born into opportunity and we each assert our individual right to develop our opportunity over the course of our lives; in an immortal phrase, "the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" that fulfills our opportunity of birth. From which it can be seen that, indeed, "rights" are self-evident if only because we each assert them for ourselves. It is in the nature of a "social context" that a process be mutually agreed to whereby some constraint upon exercise of our individual rights be accepted by all to achieve said context in the first place. Self-evident is no more a logical inconsistency that is the concept of implicit responsibility when stated within a given context. As I observed in comments in this recent post "Like alliance, definition can be conditional as well." Words do indeed mean things, but that meaning becomes distorted with even a minor change of context. As with words, so too with society and even ethics and morality.

Stephen Hawking, arguably the greatest mathematical intellect extant on planet Earth today, was born to the identical opportunity as was I who can only rudimentarily grasp the mysteries of algebra (with Kevin alighting somewhere between, thus completing the triumvirate :)). To what extent, and from among which means, we select to advance our development of our intrinsic opportunity is massively influenced by the social context within which we find ourselves born, but ultimate responsibility for that development rests to a large degree on the means and resoluteness we apply to asserting our right to do so.

Almost without fail, the first word a baby learns of its own volition is "No". It is only through long years of personal education and often painful trial and error attempts that we learn to exercise the same degree of consensual right by saying "Yes". In my experience, mostly we just call this "growing up", but like the child, so too the civilisation. Kevin laments that our founding Constitution is lost to us and likely not retrievable. To which I respond, "Yes", and implore him not to charge resolutely into the ravening mob, but be a better general instead.

When the battle seems lost, re-frame the question.

Addendum: Richard Fernandez offers a classic example of the way in which definitions change as a result of differences in context in his most recent Belmont Club post We The Chosen. Wretchard will be a very successful general come the day ...

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Thanks Kevin

I needed something more this weekend.

I own a DVD of this movie and am inspired to watch it anew; my enjoyment of the holiday is improved.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Strategy in Real Life

Earlier today, Instapundit linked to an interesting blog post regarding the nature of boycotts. I often remark on these pages that I study Sun Tzu's treatise on strategy and the Bing Fa; the question(s) raised in the linked-to piece offer an excellent example of the objective I seek from doing so, in particular our blogging colleague's closing statement:

"I just wish someone could give me a simple answer on just how, when and in what way these things are actually supposed to be used."

The basic concept of strategy is that of position, the relative measure of one's own strengths and weaknesses as well as in comparison to other's position. From this evaluation, we can each judge our own capabilities and make informed estimates regarding others. Only following such a determination are we able to make detailed tactical selections (in this example a boycott action). Once a list of potential tactical actions has been compiled, it becomes necessary to consider the ethical/moral qualities each potential tactic entails (which consideration seems to loom large for friend blogger). Finally, once all of the foregoing has been taken into account, one must make the determination as to which possible alliance acceptable to one's individual position will best permit a given tactic's having the desired effect (and it is only at this point in the process that a particular tactic such as a boycott might actually be confirmed as a viable option).

Simple enough, if not at all simplistic. :)

If symbolic appearance is acceptable then, by all means, go for what makes you feel good. If measurable effect is your objective however, as you can see, a good deal more will be required from you. Most tactics only work well when employed as part of a coordinated action leading to a specified objective (which itself is but a way-point along a more extensive journey). That said, it should be considered that a purely symbolic gesture from a sufficient number of positions (ie: people) can serve as justification for subsequent alliance to more substantial purpose. In the end, I think, what it all comes down to is a question of how much of your position (your personal assets, your personal time-line of existence) you are willing to invest to achieve a particular advancement* of your position? There are other important questions, of course, but they tend to all be more or less dependant upon your answer to this particular question (which will itself vary as circumstance does; the bing fa presents it's own ethical standards, but they are not all inclusive nor intended to be).

*Any choice of action always comes at the cost of not doing something else. Much of the time our best strategic choice is to do nothing, or at least nothing overt, so as not to draw active opposition onto our present position (maintenance of which routinely requires effort from us in any case). Implicit to this decision will be the relative importance of this particular tactic compared to the rest of your positional considerations (family, job, religious precepts, friendships and other alliances, etc).

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

There's rules now? with Addenda and Update

Apparently so. Who knew ...

Addenda: I always thought it was more of a guideline.

Update: In possibly related news, some murderous old git has died as a result of too much rich living. Judging by the behavior of those most involved, his estate must have already been satisfactorily carved up in anticipation of the day. Pity that; without some public drama from that quarter we can only expect the return of Michael Jackson to the daily news cycle that much sooner.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

A minor flux in the Force - Updated below

Anybody got a clue why Eric S. Raymond's blog page keeps coming up 404 these last couple weeks (deliberately not linked, try for yourself; mine and his bookmark could be the problem)? His home page doesn't offer anything obviously explicative. A quick search of his name doesn't link to any recent news reports or blog posts offering enlightenment (the most recent is from the 19th of August this year referencing one of his books). I am aware that there have been threats made on his life in recent months, but anything of that nature ought to have attracted public comment somewhere I would have thought.

In the hope you're still extant Eric, was sup?

UPDATE: For the handfull of people who might not actually want to trawl through the very helpfully provided link in Comments, esr is aware of the phenomenon and efforts are apparently underway to correct it. Other than an apparent technical glitch with his hosting service, all seems to be as well as normal in esr- world. Hopefully my periodic jones for the truely long-form discussion/rant of a given topic will be easily satisfiable again soon.

Huh. My first Insta-link. That wasn't too bad. No server trembles or anything.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Fallacy of "Post-Scarcity"

The boys (and girl) at The Speculist are producing a series of audio interviews over the course of the summer with a variety of guests discussing some aspect of anticipated change in the future. On their Fast Forward Radio program's latest episode, the topic was "The Coming Era of Abundance" which somehow seems to often be portrayed as being a "post-scarcity world". No offense to anyone (particularly Stephen and Phil), but the very notion of scarcity in this context is a strawman argument.

Abundance is a result of human capability, whether individual or societal, whereas scarcity is the result of a corresponding lack of capability or an artificially imposed condition, whether deliberate or unintended consequence. Conflating the two conditions simply works to further confuse an already speculative topic.

Leaving discussion of abundance for the moment, the condition of scarcity isn't quite as obvious a concept as might be supposed. A scarcity of something has to be recognised as being determined within a set of often quite arbitrary conditions, the very arbitrariness of which is often not recognised or taken adequately into consideration when making the valuation of availability. Because a given quantity of some material or capability might exist under particular conditions is not a reasonable measure of availability, nor even of value necessarily.

I contend that scarcity is almost always an imposed condition, the result of either an act of will by some other or a deficit of ability within oneself. Considered in these terms, the possible advent of future technology as commonly discussed on the Speculist blog should more properly (or at least more fully and practically) examine how the particular technology will supersede the pre-existing and societally entrenched mechanism it displaces. Such a disruptive grounding of the discussion is necessary to fully understand the changes such technology implies as well as to prevent the conversation drifting off into utopian fantasies and illogicality's (a sub-set of a different genre). Often overlooked in any examination of a given technology is how it's course of development and acceptance by human society is effected by the actions of the adherents of pre-existing or alternative technologies. Providing a discoursive mechanism whereby people can take such resistance into account is a still-to-be-arrived-at format that continues to hamper such discussions as those hosted on the Speculist blog and Fast Forward Radio program.

One of the most common such fallacies that distort future technology considerations is the general lack of understanding regarding the concept of "money". Money is arguably the most intuitive and nuanced construct humans have (by comparison, the concept of "deity" usually best compares to a super-parent construct suffering from bi-polar disorder to the nth degree). Money is a (so far) universal system of classification and communication that pre-dates all known human records; indeed, the earliest records found in the Mesopotamian and Indus regions are all concerning classification of people and things by various measures and communication regarding their disposition by some figure of assumed authority. More properly still, by some figure speaking as agent for some figure of authority (the vast majority of whom seem to divide their time between enjoying said authority and seeking more, but decidedly not in accounting it all themselves [see: enjoying above]). I submit that the advent of money was the Singularity event that catapulted humanity onto its present course of evolutionary development. Needless to say, any event which doesn't eliminate the human need to classify and communicate won't displace this concept from human society or intellectual pursuits.

Scarcity occurs because some human(s) gain advantage to themselves by imposing such a condition upon others - OR - some human(s) fail to perform the actions necessary to satisfy such a demand and deny the opportunity to themselves and others. These two human traits will continue to exist whatever technology humans might also contrive; failure to account for their influence will only cause disruption and distortion to the development process and further continue the imposition of scarcity as well.

The ability to manipulate the molecular structure of matter to satisfy our particular desire of the moment seems a logical extension of current scientific research and the veritable definition of "abundance". This only holds true, however, to the extent our existing societal structures don't impose inhibiting influence on the development process. Reduction of scarcity equals a commensurate reduction in the degree of influence and outright control that can be imposed upon groups by individuals. Similarly, providing the means to achieve individual abundance offers a single instance of opportunity to the provider. Neither of these near-universal human considerations is obviated by the development of technology or recognition of a human need - however genuine - that development satisfies. Recognition of opportunity and a desire for personal security isn't limited to potential despots after all.

To any possible technologic development, there will be both direct and indirect opposition as well as passive acceptance and outright indifference to contend with. Any examination of future potentialities that fails to adequately take these conditions into account simply fails. Blogs like the Speculist and their Fast Forward Radio production are on-going examinations of human technology development and, as such, remain ever a work in process. I recommend their efforts to everyone and anticipate continued development of the examination process they utilize to contemplate the future.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Bullish on the Future's Market

The below quotation is an excerpt from the latest e-mail from my daughter:

"... and as of last week....i have taken 8 test and they all say i will find out on thursday if they are accurate.....and that you will be a grandfather...."

I don't think I will end up too far from the trunk when I take this pre-confirmation opportunity to publicly declare an upgrade of my personal Grandfather-tude status from "pending" to "incipient".

The Amazon account is in for a shift of emphasis in the near future it would seem. I'll have to see if I can arrange for Saturday delivery.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Some Words About Words

To start, consider the following definitions:

Strategy: a sequence of deliberate and spontaneous events that are initiated to achieve a pre-determined goal or objective, such events commonly characterised by their deceptive or even duplicitous nature. Individually termed a "stratagem".

Tactic: an event or method used to achieve an aim or task; the means by which a stratagem is enacted.

Plan: the formal itemization of a given entity's capabilities; most often utilised as a mechanism to compare two or more disparate entities against, or in support of, each other.

Training: the mental and physical exercise necessary to develop or maintain the particular skills required to enact a tactic; commonly structured as individual activity within a group as part of a complex and variably orchestrated combination of events taking place both simultaneously and sequentially. Such activities are often impossible to directly control or activate on an individual basis, so training emphasises the ability to self-direct and self-initiate action within pre-determined parameters.

Study of strategy is my hobby (it takes all kinds, you know). In my less productive moments, I frequently ponder the underlying philosophy contained within Sun Tzu's The Art of War (go here for a free .pdf download: And, as do most people I presume, I routinely seek to better my understanding of the world around me while bettering my position therein. From the truly mundane advancement from figuring out my new cellphones camera function (I don't think it's actually possible to photograph the inside of one's pocket, but I expect I'll put that to the test soon enough) to the more practical development of job-related skills and knowledge, it should be obvious that my interest has much broader applications than mere war. The four definitions I offer above are the result of my study and are based upon the proposition that strategy is an individual discipline and not a militaristic exposition.

Taking them in reverse order of presentation:

Training ought to be self-explanatory, but it should be emphasised that training is not really synonymous with "education". The well educated likely are not trained in numerous aspects of applying the content of their syllabus, while the obverse doesn't actually apply either; the well-trained machinist likely being insufficiently educated to read da Vinci's description of his invention in the original being only one possible example. Training is the process through which large numbers of people and groups gain sufficient mastery of particular concepts and actions so as to demonstrate the ability to reliably perform them to a stipulated degree of proficiency under stressful and chaotic conditions (it being reasonably assumed that more convivial conditions will not make performance more demanding).

If you ever feel the urge to declare your affection for a plan's having "come together", immediately assume that your "plan" is out of date and erroneous. Should you ever begin to feel certain that you have a good understanding of an enemy's capabilities and/or intentions, consider said enemy to be succeeding at his strategy rather better than you intended. Similarly, the degree of confidence you might experience in your own groups preparedness is likely influenced by the cumulative creativity your allies and colleagues have resorted to in their reporting. To wit, a plan is only an approximation of capabilities (one of the most oxi-moronic statements in human history has to be: "No plan survives first contact with the enemy". Of course not, he's the enemy! He's supposed to deceive and mis-direct you, not to mention act unpredictably.), having the principle purpose of guiding training content and schedule selection. A plan tells you what a given ally or enemy (the classification being both variable and only marginally reliable at any given moment) is thought to be pursuing, in possession of, or capable of accomplishing as of the time the discovery was made. Tempus fugit for everybody pretty much equally, so take it as a given that things has changed in the interim.

Tactics is where we get down to actually implementing all those training scenarios and mostly being disappointed by our own side only ("the enemy" being quite expected to not disappoint by doing something unanticipated). This is when everybody gets to discover whether or not a given participant actually did train "harder than the real thing". The concept of "tactical doctrine" is the mechanism whereby large and often complex organisations classify and categorise different tactical options both as to compatibility in support, or effectiveness in opposition, to a given circumstance or objective. Mastery of such doctrinal procedure is the measure of professional competence, but it is the successful application of such when innovative response to unanticipated threat is required, that is the hallmark of great leadership.

Finally, strategy is the philosophy (there's that word again) used to organize and coordinate the method and direction whereby a position is advanced, relative both to its previous circumstance and to the position of others. Now seems an appropriate time to observe that every nation (or other political demarcation), corporation (or other business structure), affiliation (or other fraternal, political, social, religious or-any-other-category-of-group association) as well as each and every individual person alive on Earth (can we all agree to leave ET to the ministrations of John Ringo and his fellow Bain-iacs for the nonce?) is a separate and variably allied or opposed position. All of them pursuing advancement by their participants.

To sum up; a strategy employs tactics to achieve an advancement of position, commonly through varied association with other positions, by means of also variably shared training, derived from the plans developed to ascertain the positions of all involved on their own merit as well as relative to one another. If what you are saying doesn't bear some substantial degree of alignment with the sentiment just expressed, then maybe the words you are using don't mean what you think they mean.


Saturday, August 8, 2009

Afghanistan Strategy Dialogue

For background and context, readers are directed to:

To begin, the primary question is worded in a misleading fashion. Restated as: In the present war, is the Afghanistan Campaign in the interests of the United States and its allies?, it becomes clear that any such strategy must take into account US and allied intentions throughout that region of the globe and not be artificially limited to Afghanistan-centric concerns only.

It should also be acknowledged that, should it be decided that US and allied war aims are not best furthered by continuance of the Afghanistan Campaign, the US retains the capability to re-stage the 2001/02 intervention should post-withdrawal circumstance require. That said, by creating a regional alliance with India and Iraq, the US could find itself in a position to actively engage the government of Pakistan as well as some future government of Iran in the creation of a regional partnership. Such a structure would provide ample resources to relieve the US of much of the personnel burden as well as provide extensive and varied training/basing options for US and allied assets (not necessarily limited to military assets only) across the region.

The suggested alliance would have the explicit aim of countering instability issues among the member countries as well as to provide permanent staging facilities from which to support current and future war aims throughout that part of the globe, specifically to include military incursions into the African sub-continent. Additionally, creating the necessary logistical infrastructure within the partner countries would explicitly be undertaken to develop and expand related societal infrastructure using indigenous populations and resources to the greatest extent practicable.

Based upon the US experience with the Euro-centric NATO alliance, I anticipate that such an alliance as the one suggested herein ought to provide a 40 to 60 year long engagement effort. The over-riding objective being to create an unreceptive environment for those who seek to oppose US and allied war efforts and objectives, development of regional national capabilities to viable self-reliance levels will offer a gradual reduction in dependance upon US financing and technology contributions as the alliance matures.

On Precedence and Seniority

As part of this post, RobertaX makes the following statement in a parenthetical footnote:

2. No, I'm guessing. But the USN is the Senior Service, after all.

In her comments section I observed that this wasn't actually true. Since I think her subsequent comment a bit ambiguous, I offer the following excerpts from the wikipedia pages for both the US Army and Navy

The United States Army is the branch of the United States armed forces responsible for land-based military operations. It is the largest and oldest established branch of the U.S. military and is one of seven uniformed services. The modern Army has its roots in the Continental Army which was formed on 14 June 1775,[1] before the establishment of the United States, to meet the demands of the American Revolutionary War. Congress created the United States Army on 14 June 1784 after the end of the war to replace the disbanded Continental Army. The Army considers itself to be descended from the Continental Army and thus dates its inception from the origins of that force.

Congress formally authorized creation of the Continental Army more than a year prior to the actual Declaration of Independence. Congress formally replaced the Continental Army with the United States Army on 14 June 1784.

The US Navy wikipedia page is composed quite differently to that for the Army, so the quotes are more extensive:

In the early stages of the American Revolutionary War, the establishment of an official navy was an issue of debate among the members of the Continental Congress. Supporters argued that a navy would protect shipping, defend the coast, and make it easier to seek out support from foreign countries. Detractors countered that challenging the British Royal Navy, then the world's preeminent naval power, was a foolish undertaking.[5]

Commander in Chief George Washington commissioned seven ocean-going cruisers to interdict British supply ships, and reported the captures to the Congress. This effectively ended the debate in Congress as to whether or not to "provoke" the British by establishing a Navy as Washington's ships had already captured British ships, somewhat a provocation.

While Congress deliberated, it received word that two unarmed British supply ships from England were heading towards Quebec without escort. A plan was drawn up to intercept the ships—however, the armed vessels to be used were owned not by Congress, but by individual colonies. Of greater significance, then, was an additional plan to equip two ships that would operate under the direct authority of Congress to capture British supply ships. This was not carried out until 13 October 1775, when George Washington announced that he had taken command of three armed schooners under Continental authority to intercept any British supply ships near Massachusetts. With the revelation that vessels were already sailing under Continental control, the decision to add two more was made easier;[9] the resolution was adopted and 13 October would later become known as the U.S. Navy's official birthday.[10]

The Continental Navy achieved mixed results; it was successful in a number of engagements and raided many British merchant vessels, but it lost 24 of its vessels[11] and at one point was reduced to two in active service.[12] As Congress turned its attention after the conflict towards securing the western border of the new United States, a standing navy was considered to be dispensable because of its high operating costs and its limited number of roles.

The United States would be without a navy for nearly a decade—a state of affairs that exposed its merchant ships to a series of attacks by Barbary pirates. The sole armed maritime presence between 1790 and the launching of the U.S. Navy's first warships in 1797 was the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service (USRCS), the primary "ancestor" of the U.S. Coast Guard. Although USRCS Cutters conducted operations against these pirates, the depredations far outstripped the abilities of the USRCS and Congress ordered the construction and manning of six frigates on 27 March 1794;[11] three years later the first three were welcomed into service: the USS United States, USS Constellation and USS Constitution.

From this we can see that Congress formally authorized a national army on 14 June, 1775 and a national navy (if you consider 2 ships to qualify as such) on 13 October, 1775. Since these are the dates both branches of the military regard as "official", I stand by my assertion regarding the question of "senior service" within the US military hierarchy. I seem to recall from my own service that the Navy, at least, pretends not to notice such petty distinctions and the Army just assumes its "natural" superiority in the scheme of things. Until it needs a ride somewhere.

I don't really expect any of this to settle the question, of course, but it does make for slightly more substantial filler than available elsewhere. :)

Thursday, August 6, 2009

There's a lot of that going 'round these days it seems

And not in a good way either.

While I can make no claim to any degree of expertise regarding Irish national political or social structures and standards, as is also the case with Great Britain, the similarities the US shares with either country often make for fascinating reading. In the linked to example, one Gavin Sheridan stretches the bounds of copyright more than a little wherein he illustrates that the size of the pond has nothing at all to do with the size of the mess it's denizens can create. I won't further risk international relations (read: I'm too lazy) by reproducing his literary device; suffice it to say that with only a bit of minor editing his observations could be applied just as devastatingly to our own domestic US political and economic circumstance.

RTWT as they say. Of a certainty don't just take my word for it all, I found his work via Twenty Major for God's sake.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Certificate of Strategy

Charles Johnson is having way too much fun kicking the "Obama Birth Certificate" kooks while they're down. Hard to blame him really; they do keep showing their asses after all.

Pity really. The whole question regarding how, and by whom, a potential candidate is proven to be eligible for the office sought is an under-examined one in my experience prior to this last political campaign season. I remain convinced that the American polity deserves a public hearing on the process with an eye toward achieving greater national consistency and transparency regarding any future candidates standing.

On that note, let me just say that due to his having been legally elected, formally confirmed and duly sworn into office, Barack Hussein Obama is the President of the United States. Period. The time to have raised this question was during the campaign; now is well and truly too late.

And, baring tragedy or some utterly unlikely action on his part, Mr. Obama will remain so for the entirety of his term. The Constitution is quite clear regarding the terms and conditions under which a sitting president may be legally removed from office, and most of those conditions are limited to his actions while in office. Since the courts have already declined to hear arguments on this issue numerous times, it seems unlikely that a criminal conviction arising from this allegation will be forthcoming either, so that option seems off the board too.

That all said, I do think the continuing interest stemming from the campaign allegation(s) regarding Mr. Obama's circumstance at the time of his birth demonstrates that this issue does seem to contain an electoral anomaly. Even now, it remains unclear precisely which elected official (and by what mechanism) bears the responsibility to confirm (and to what standard of proof) that any given seeker of elective office within these United States qualifies for such candidacy. An examination of how the process actually does work would seem to be a necessary and illustrative first step in resolving said anomaly.

Mr. Obama's strategy in the present circumstance is actually quite impressive in my judgement. While not directly addressing the issue himself (or even especially via his official or even semi-official representatives), the President encourages his political opposition to expend their energies (and monies) on a moot issue - at least as regards the presentation of any threat to his tenure in office. Sun Tzu noted that; "the supreme general is he that defeats his enemies without engaging them in battle". President Obama, through no apparent effort on his part (yes, I realize the press consists largely of his supporters; so what?), is presented with a surprisingly large percentage of the principal opposition party's membership who seem willing to waste their time in office over this immaterial effort. Not too surprisingly, he also seems quite willing to let them keep on doing so. Proving that somebody with his confidence listens to Rush Limbaugh; "When a fool is doing something stupid, get out of his way!"

Should the rest of the country finally decide we've had enough of the silliness over this issue now (and I have to say, the spectacle is really starting to tire - the clowns in the circus are ever only on stage for brief periods of time for this very reason), perhaps the Senate could organize hearings with an eye towards soliciting the states to pursue a constitutional amendment that formalizes both a standard of proof and mechanism for detailing same should such an action be the best way to ultimately resolve this question.

I imagine Mr. Obama would treasure that irony all the rest of his days.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Retail Roulette - Updated

Tamara didn't say what the ammo situation is in the Indianapolis area (which is in itself a clue that nothing too dramatic has changed yet), but here in Tyler there seems to be a definite shudder of recovery underway.

I don't patronise the Mound of Goose Quills (with it's fluffed up price structure), but Academy had a modest selection of most handgun calibers that I could see. Other than .22 nothing that I shoot of course, but there seemed to be at least a few boxes in all the slots except for .45 and .380 (and like most general sporting goods retailers, no .32 H&R ever). Fortunately the Walton family corporate dynasty had a renewed supply of .45 for US$14.97/box of 50 rds, so I bought the limit (six boxes/day - keeps the trailer stalker depredations subdued). I feel better now; I'm back over my 1k personal supply baseline now.

An added note about my Academy experience; the store environment was pleasant and seemed well laid out and I bought a BLACKHAWK! Serpa holster for US$29.99 (a regularly stocked item to my surprise), but I have to say that the selection of footwear I found available was truly impressive - if you wear a "D" width shoe; otherwise you're barefoot. And, while I realise it was mid-afternoon on a pleasant Sunday, a few more employees actually working in the various departments instead of wandering around the store would likely contribute to an improvement on the P&L financial statement up to corporate headquarters.

So, the ammo frenzy seems to be coming to an end finally as does the dearth of guns from which to select. All in all, it seems the national economy is still swirling the financial-ruin-drain as strongly as it has for the entirety of my lifetime. The big flush is gonna happen sometime, I agree, but somethings going to have to shut off the water completely for it to end (to escape a really bad analogy). The trick, as they say, is not to panic 'till it does.

Updated to note that now she has said. With any luck, the fearful and the foolish will latch on to some other commodity or activity for a while instead.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The End May Indeed Be Nigh

Just returned from my friendly neighborhood Walmart Super Center. Along with the usual bachelors shopping (thank you Boston Market) I stopped in the sporting goods department for my weekly ration of disappointment. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that as of 7:00pm this date, Federal 230gr. FMJ was to be had for US$14.97/50 rd box (plus the usual Governor's gratuity). If memory serves, this is in line with the price they charged for Winchester White Box 100rd packs in days past. I don't know if this is a local rule or not (the sales clerk didn't know off-hand), but each individual customer was limited to six boxes per transaction specifically to thwart the delivery truck stalkers. The cavernous echo that characterizes my wallet limited me to only four boxes, along with a 555rd bulk pack of .22lr from Winchester ($15.97+), which brought the grand total to US$82.11.

One event does not a trend make, but can we be nearing the end of the Days of Whine and Woe-is-Me's on the ammunition front?

Tying together two more usually disparate interests, what effect might the arrival of molecular manufacturing have on these types of products? I cite ammunition specifically because each cartridge is actually composed of several distinct components of separately tight construction tolerances which provide a micro-cosmic example of the macro application of the molecular construction concept generally.

A brief re-cap of firearms development history; essentially, first came muskets that required the shooter to hand mix powder and bullet as part of the re-loading exercise, followed by cased cartridges containing powder and bullet in one construction. I note all this as illustration of what I regard as the most likely development path that molecular construction technology will follow over it's development process. The gradual discovery of the means to build the various components of an object to ever-greater refinement along with the means to assemble them into a particular tool (or application if you prefer). Ultimately, of course, to be able to manufacture a complex construct from a unified process - raw molecular materials in, refined tool (application) out.

One of the objections I often read is that molecular manufacturing doesn't/oughtn't include biological processes. I submit that technology like modern, fully-automated ammunition manufacturing puts the lie to such constraints, combining as it does both metallurgical and chemical development processes. It seems but a small stretch to envision a biology-based process that results in a component of future ammunition's gunpowder mixture, not to mention the possibilities of biologically manufactured and applied coatings for fully assembled rounds. In fact, I suspect I am being not far-sighted enough in my considerations here.

Physicist Richard Feynman speculated that molecular manufacturing could be achieved without losing the ability to create a finished product at any time during the development cycle (see here for relevant discussion and further links). I submit that we see that principle being practiced in industries like firearms and ammunition without really recognizing it. Whether or not we deliberately follow his suggested course of action further into the future, or even achieve his manufacturing capability objective at all, I believe that our instinctual recourse to technologic development will provide humanity with ever-greater individual capability and that we will continue to challenge our individual capability limits however capable our technology might become. That's the difference between life and existence, isn't it?

And on that note, I think I'll schedule a little range time for myself in the not-too-distant future - seeing as I now have something to shoot and all.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

There's a word for that ...

We who follow technology and have an interest in both the mechanisms and rate of technologic change, often fall prey to what I've seen referenced as the "gee whiz syndrome"; that is, we become so enamored with some new-seeming aspect of technology that we forget (or dismiss) the preceding capability. Perhaps more importantly, we fail to realistically take into account both the burden of historical expectations a technology carries forward with it (critical to how it will be received by potential users) as well as the dismissal arising from un-met expectations due to the unachieved potentialities seemingly inherent to the technology. If a technology is perceived as being a previous disappointment (hydrogen as a fuel or power source is only one example), then any subsequent technologic advancement from the previous capability has to overcome an additional market bias against it in addition to the actual physical science-based challenges. Nuclear fusion might be a good example of un-met potentialities I suggest.

Now (OK, last week), comes Alvis Brigis (via Phil Bowermaster) with yet another possible example for us to consider. Full disclosure here; I have exchanged numerous e-mails with Alvis in regards to our mutual posts on Future Blogger, and I've been a call-in guest on Phil's Blog Talk Radio program Fast Forward Radio. I am acquainted with both gentlemen and to a large degree share their interest in matters technologic. That all said, I think they both have taken a heapin' helpin' of the kool-aid this time.

Having flung the obligatory monkey feces, let me now proceed to thoroughly mix the metaphors and spread a little oil on the roiled waters (before setting it merrily alight, I expect).

As children we all practice "simulation". Sticking to stereotype (if only for simplistic example's sake), little girls "simulate" human interaction with dress-up dolls and little boys build elaborate "simulations" of transport scenarios with a patch of dirt and a model vehicle of some description. Feel free to replace the described technology with a different historical example and the human behavior remains true; humans learn (at least in part) by playing out imaginative constructs that permit variations of circumstance to determine potential for success deriving from future actions. I would submit that this capability is one of the important factors permitting human evolution beyond that achieved by our nearest physiological brethren.

Alvis makes this point:

My personal take on the matter (original article [link redacted, WB]), in alignment with both Cascio and Kurzweil's views, is that as organisms evolve and life's complexity increases, new species with brains capable of greater quantification and abstraction (simulation!) emerge at a regular clip. Over time, these organisms discover ways to expand their knowledge by communicating (actively or passively) information to one another and letting the network manage their quantifications and decisions. Then, eventually, the higher-level organisms figure out how to extend their knowledge into the environment through technology that allows them to communicate and retrieve it more easily than before. This is accomplished directly through technologies like language, writing, or classical maps, and indirectly through the hard-technologies like spears, paint, and paper that critically support knowledge externalization.

In other words, I believe that simulation plays a critical role in not only the evolution and development of the human species, but also of all forms of life on this planet and probably in our known universe (as suggested by recent findings that physical matter millions of light years distant closely resembles our own).

Consequently, I find it likely that we will soon discover a proof, power law or other theorem for complex systems that correlates increased simulational ability with increased 1) control over environment and 2) survivability. It may look a little bit like the following diagram, with the added explanation that simulation drives the creation of more knowledge as our informational inputs are expanded by technology that steadily increases the data we mine from withion our environment (inner space) and across the universe (outer space) ...

[my bold, WB]

Leaving aside the question of possible examples of these putative alternate intelligences, one particular human developed just such a conceptual mechanism as Alvis pines for about 2,500 years ago as the planet Earth turns. In strategy, all potential points of active contention (commonly individual people or social entities like corporations, armies or countries) are described as position(s). The guiding intellect of each position (traditionally described as "the general") determines which of the potential actions available best advances the position, relative to itself and others. The means chosen to achieve these actions are known as tactics. The mechanism developed to measure the potential effectiveness of possible tactics is called planning, and most people completely overlook how this mechanism pertains to their own capabilities as much as to other's. No matter how lovingly a plan might "come together", the actual implementation always differs from the plan in some (often drastic) respect due to human inability to accurately simulate actual capabilities as well as intentions of possible opposition and/or assistance in carrying out a tactical option.

Phil makes the point:

As a species, and as individuals, we began to create better and better conceptual maps of the world around us and to make better use of those maps. We got better at simulating.It should be obvious that better simulation amounts to better evolutionary success -- just take out the word "evolutionary," and consider some examples ...

A very succinct description of the planning process of strategy.

Here comes the "setting alight" bit.

Because we may have, or more accurately be in the process of making, better tools doesn't necessarily imply that we have some new or even especially different tactic available to us. What is true is that we can make better plans eventually because the simulation technology we are developing permits us more accurate insight into other's capabilities/intentions than before. Add to this the ability to better express our own position and we have increased potential to reduce misconceptions, making less likely an adverse tactical selection being made to our detriment.

However, while important, none of the foregoing really rises to the level of "cosmic" I'm afraid. The inability to consistently communicate clearly within our own species is only one example of the adverse environment within which we seek to live and succeed in our daily lives. Stipulating there is "someone out there" with which to mis-communicate at all, we do ourselves a serious dis-service thinking we can begin to simulate such contact with any reliability. Closer to home, given the potential for non-human species (whether traditional or wholly artificial) to be "upgraded" to near-human intellect - or, pace Michael Anissimov, beyond - within the relatively near future, strategic theory provides a proven mechanism with which to employ our burgeoning simulation technology to our best mutual advantage.

Finally, because we can simulate possible interactions and outcomes more graphically (and thus more persuasively), we need to consciously avoid the dangerous assumption that "the map is the reality"; that our simulation is the outcome rather than a variably informed guess.

We have a word for that, too.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

There is no "u" in Lara

Which would have been a screamingly funny line to deliver in the circumstances just passim. Or screaming, at least. I confess I was too chicken (or experienced with the results from previous displays of "humor") to actually express the observation. Perhaps one day the lady herself (for such she has grown to become) will read these pages and appreciate the possibilities my hesitance saved us all from.

Just returned from a two-day trip to the Dallas area. I am proud to announce that the no-longer-Miss Brown is, as I write these words, winging her way in the company of her new husband towards Barcelona, Espania and a week-long seaborne tour of the most touristy venues the western Med currently has on offer. I further have it on reliable authority that I am going to require larger digs in a year or three if I expect to hold up my end of the grand-fatherly responsibilities within the familias. Not sure what the kitties will think of all of that or, come the day, the kinder. Apparently we all are going to find out sometime in the late Spring of 2010 if himself expects to maintain his manly public reputation. I wish to place in the public record that I aver this to be an expression of feminine prescience - guns are for shooting, not jumping, he said.

One final observation; do you know how, when you first see some object of great art, that sensation you experience of "Yes, that's right. This is as it should be." can occur in the viewer? Even though there are numerous other examples also present that do the same thing, for that moment you have trouble accepting that the portrayed circumstance could possibly exist any other way. Seeing my daughter and son-in-law together instills that set of emotions very strongly in me. Indeed, that may have been the most common theme of the day, that at least in this swirl of life, things are finally as they were always meant to be. I like to think that I encouraged her to think for herself as she grew into adulthood; if the non-traditional nature of the proceedings now completed are any example, I succeeded beyond my wildest imaginings.

I feel much greater confidence as I face back towards the future. She has done well, and will do more as the dawns accumulate.