Saturday, October 29, 2016

Much Ado About "How Much ... ?"

8 years ago I wrote a post that linked to another post I had written some 2 1/2 years previously on the strategy of money. In recent weeks, the good people at Extra Credits on YouTube have addressed the same concept as a straightforward history lesson in a series of videos (the 6th, and presumably final, video still forthcoming as I write this). At the end of video #5 we are at the point of paper money abandoning commodity currency (refined gold and silver generally). This prompted me to make an effort to at least outline what I regard as the necessary final step to completing the strategy of money into the traditional closed loop of thought that Sun Tzu actually practiced.

I postulate that "money" is a purely intellectual concept, having no basis in physical goods or commodities. Indeed, that commodities serve to distort the money concept and inject malignant influences on its function. That being said, there still is needed a mechanism whereby transactional value can be derived against an immutable quantity (the function refined metals are supposed to fulfill).

Hydrogen is the most common element in the universe (as far as human science can determine), and as such the possibility of "cornering the market" or any other type of currency valuation manipulation becomes effectively impossible. This aspect alone makes hydrogen a very suitable candidate for determining the relative value of a given currency. Consider ...

A single molecule of hydrogen can theoretically be converted to a known quantity of energy, which can in turn be expressed in a number of practical values depending upon how the released energy is expressed. A 21st century currency issuing entity (not necessarily a single country) is comprised, in part, of electrical generation capabilities, all of which consist of identical calibration metrics regardless of nationality, ideology or any other political or societal influence (Ohm's Law being just as universal - and effectively untamperable with - as hydrogen, as far as we can tell). The electricity generated, powers in turn a host of economic "value added" activities, if only the direct sale of electricity to another currency issuing source.

I propose that some measure of electricity (the erg perhaps?) be established as the baseline metric whereby any currency can be valued by any user. The issuing source (alright, this is becoming tedious - country hereafter) has a measurable quantity of electrical production as part of its domestic economy. This provides an independently measurable metric to determine a value for that country's domestic economy as a whole, against which the influence of domestic or international government meddling can be measured, and from which a unitary value can be derived for that currency against a known and fixed standard of measure. When this process is applied to other currencies, it makes comparative currency valuation a reasonably impartial (and importantly, more difficult to tamper with) process.

This resolves the intangible aspects of paper and digital money by pegging them to a known and hopefully immutable reference source, along with making manipulation of a country's currency much more detectable and thus defensible against.

Adopting such a system of currency valuation in the United States would seemingly not require a Constitutional amendment (see, Art 1, Sec 8, US Constitution, which explicitly charges Congress with the authority to  "coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures") (which also, BTW, effectively prohibits the dis-continuation of physical currency, whether coinage or paper, absent a Constitutional amendment IMO). As the United States dollar remains the planetary reserve currency, it can be expected that other countries would adopt this standard as their domestic political process allows.

Being my idea, I hope no one will be surprised at my enthusiasm for it. I'm also self-aware enough to know that there are undoubtedly a number of potential objections to the basic concept itself, whether theoretical or practical in nature. I hope to read and reply to those as I can.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Operations Within The Boundary Layers Of Stellar Impingment

A Stellar object is more commonly referred to as a "star", but what follows has absolutely nothing to do with celestial mechanics, astronomy or astrology.

Within military culture (not quite the oxymoron it is assumed to be by those who haven't been party to it), Flag Officers is the generic classification for Generals and Admirals, since officers at these levels of command sport their own distinct flag (commonly a small pennant or license plate type badge on a vehicle) which features the number of stars their uniform displays as a mark of their respective rank within their particular branch of military. In the US military, the Army (and by direct extension) the Air Force Flags are ranked one star to four star or more properly, Brigadier General, Major General, Lieutenant General and simply General. While the US Marine Corps Flag Officers use the identical designations, their structure developed uniquely from that of the Army due to their function as part of the US Navy, but for this essay's purposes the surface similarity will suffice. The US Navy only has three ranks of Admiral however, Rear Admiral, Vice Admiral and, Admiral. Much to the dismay of many a Major General, the Navy divides the rank of Rear Admiral into Lower and Upper grades, so it is not uncommon for a Major General to address a Rear Admiral as "Sir" when s/he actually outranks the particular Rear Admiral (Lower grade) being addressed (a minor point of confusion the Navy feels very little sympathy for).

That all having been said, this essay is actually about the general circumstance that might be most easily summed up as, "Notes on the Care and Feeding of Flag Officers".

There are a whole host of individuals and professional occupations designed to achieve this tenuous condition, many of whom can be characterized genericly as "Staff". Beyond these are the minor galaxy of others who work in all the ways major and minor, direct and remote from the Halls Of Power in which Flag Officers spend their work-a-day lives. This essay will over observations on the interface between those two extremes of military service.

Surrounding any Flag Officer is his (classical English usage here) immediate staff of Aide(s) and Orderlies. These are the people who keep their Flag focused on the task at hand, rather than life in general. In Army parlance, a General's Aides are commonly referred to as "dog robbers", in recognition of the dedication to duty they frequently display, to the (metaphor alert) point of robbing an actual dog of its bone, if the General indicates in some fashion he might desire the use of a toothpick. The Orderlies are those who keep the Flag's transportation, quarters, and wardrobe functional and presentable under the Aides' direction. All of which has it's own infrastructure as well.

Working in the Flag Officers Mess, for only one example, is an exercise in professional as well as political organization. The cooks and other kitchen staff have the to-be-expected occupational challenge of creating and serving nutritious meals that seriously over-worked flag Officers will most likely never pay more attention to than making sure they're not trying to fork up a mouthful of soup.
Which is not to say they don't appreciate all the hard work by so many; if the soup doesn't taste good it will be noticed. The simple assumption is that Flag Officers expect a base line of performance from those who support them professionally that is ... well, stellar.

The political organizational skills are called for when interacting with the Aides and Orderlies of a Flag Officer. Not only does the Flag Officer himself need to feel properly cared for, the staff have to feel the same way. This frequently creates opportunity(s) for friction between conflicting priorities.

One obvious conflict is that their particular Flag isn't likely to be the only Flag being served in the Mess. A certain amount of schedule shifting has to be expected ... and required in turn when necessary. This is one reason a Flag Officers Mess is usually so overloaded with senior personnel compared to any other dining facility (another reason being that occupational experience is also commonly expressed in the form of rank attained). This gives the kitchen personnel a bit of an advantage when some Admiral's orderly wanders onto the mess deck with menu advice or the like. The sheer number of Senior and Master Chiefs (and in an Army kitchen Warrant Officers) is sufficient to adequately whelm anyone under the rank of Commander/Lt. Colonel - and I'm pretty sure MacArthur was the last 4-star Flag Officer with a staff officer of that senior a personal rank. Anyone assigned to a Flag Officers Mess who isn't also at least a Chief Petty Officer/Sergeant First Class, would be well advised to very politely point out one of those august individuals to any interloper, then quickly fade into Doing Something somewhere else.

Basically, The Admiral and Mrs. Admiral can absolutely love your culinary skills, but if the staff have a problem with you, you have a problem, and the easiest solution for everyone else involved (who isn't actually Mr. and Mrs. Admiral) is to erase you from the equation. I don't care how great a chef you are, everybody else in the kitchen has their own set of knives too, and they wouldn't be in the room at all if they weren't just as good out on the edge as you are.

A great kitchen is much like a great Rock band or any other pressure-packed creative work environment, the normal work day is spent right on the edge of a major fight between the members. A great Flag Officers staff is usually an active conspiracy tip-toeing right along the edge of outright criminality, if that's what duty requires. Watching how these two organized chaos benders interact with each other must be truly awesome ... from a safe-enough distance.

If you should find yourself assigned to a Flag Officers Mess, or Staff, you need to keep in mind that someone in a position to know thinks you are smart enough to do the basic job, and are smart enough to learn the real job while you're doing it. In other words, you belong there. If you want to stay there however, you have to force yourself to focus only on the task at hand, at refining the skill set that got you there in the first place, to the point of routinely consistent, elite levels of performance.

You'll know you're almost there when no-one tells you what to do, just what is wanted next.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Welcome To Arkham Tumblir ...

... where the truth is just Crazy Talk.

Racism is much discussed in recent months (years?). There is a dictionary definition, of course, and pretty much anyone you might care to ask can offer up an example of what racism is to them.

But what is it really?

Consider this; racism is Elitist Ideology taken to the broadest possible human application.

In religion there is a Supreme Being/God/Gods, one (or more) entities that are the ultimate Elitist(s) humans have so far been able to imagine.

In actual physical reality here on Earth, human history is just crammed full of various examples of Kings, individuals held up as the penultimate example of human superiority over other humans, at least by those who personally gain in some way by enforcing that "fact" on everyone else.

In less prosaic terms, Elitist Ideology holds that the elitist is superior to others as an intrinsic consequence of being one of the elite. It is simply assumed that the Elite accomplish more and greater things than do other, lesser humans.

As there can be only one king at a time, so too can there be only one Most Elite at one time. Which is something of a problem for all the also-rans. Not surprisingly, there is fierce competition to be acknowledged as The Elite, and less surprisingly still a hierarchy of Elites as well.

Do you see the connection yet? Each level of elitists requires some group of lesser elitists to acknowledge their superiority. This necessarily dilutes the standards required for one to become acknowledged as being Elitist enough to have an opinion of another's elitistness (totally a word) to make a public opinion worthwhile amongst Elitist circles.

Eventually we get to the most common of social competitiveness, Common Othering.

Basically, anyone you can identify as being in some measure (usually of a determinedly ephemeral qualification) less than you makes you among the Elitist Class ... in your own opinion at least. The real trick here is to convince others (no, not those Others) that they too are part of your Elitist Class also, if only they will recite the mantra you provide them with.

The slightest difference in appearance (or manner of speech, or ... well, pretty much anything can be used to make an artificial distinction, can't it? It's in the nature of an "artificial distinction", isn't it?) is by far the easiest and most common example of human Elitists demonstrating their superiority over others.

And there you have it. Racism is Elitist behavior taken to the broadest application within the species. More simply put, a racist is someone who uses superficial, external distinctions to claim superiority over those who display arbitrarily Other superficial, external features from him/her self. Just as an aside, you can often discover how far up the Elitist scale people consider themselves to be by how immaterial they hold the lesser standards to be. The true Elitist often doesn't consider external appearance in gauging the status of someone else - unless there isn't enough difference between them otherwise, then ...

There is no racism, there is only elitist self-aggrandizement, practiced by those who have no actual achievements by which to be measured against others to determine a status that is, at best, chimerical and entirely external to one's actual character.

Strive to be among the elite at whatever you do, and to never be elitist about anyone, yourself most especially.

EDIT (11/28/2016):

While looking for something else I had written, I came across a post from September of 2012 in which I used the opportunity of a Tamara Keel post to examine elitism from a practical perspective.

Therein I linked to a 2006 post from Gary Gagliardi's old Warrior Class Blog in which I looked at the classical strategy aspects of elitism in a variety of human activities.

I consider Albert Nock's dismissal of "the uneducable" to be merely another example of Othering. By excluding any instance of individual success in improving one's status or condition in life that doesn't rise to the level of eliteness that Nock seems to require, it becomes very easy to simply shrug one's shoulders and ask, "What can one do?", and continue bewailing the lack of (presumably fellow) elites in the world.

As a final comment on the ramifications of elitism, a philosophical note to take away with you:
And here we come to my belief, my faith if you will, in the value of strategic science to the individual.
As defined by the science, we are each of us “alone” in that each of us is a unique and wholely separate position from any other’s. From that, the only way of evaluating and advancing our position is by relating to and forming relations with (alliances) other’s position. The individual can only and ever be a separate part of the whole. There is a profound sense of relief from the realisation that “I am alone” isn’t an expression of aberration; the only correct response is, “Well of course you are! And so are all of us.”

You are the only "you" there is. Opportunely, there are many other yous, each equally alone, and each variably available to join with you in some fashion, to some purpose. You will all still be alone, but you can do so together if you choose. That voice you hear in your head? It's only your echo. If you will listen to those other voices you can hear though, together you can make a lovely harmony. It's possible to lose your sense of alone-ness in the flow of the melody; perhaps doing so is somehow necessary to being a healthy human being. The only way you can ever achieve elite recognition is by contrasting your abilities to someone else's. If you aren't part of The Remnant, all you are is alone and totally ignorant of your measure as a human being.

Join the chorus.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

He Said? She Said? Here's What I Say

So, Donald Trump wants to be President of the United States, does he?

First and foremost, I think it only basic honesty to acknowledge that there is no public record of criminal rape charges ever being leveled against him. Which is not to say that several women haven't filed civil claims against him for adjudication. As is common legal practice in such circumstances, a settlement was reached by the several litigating parties in the two acknowledged instances (one involving the now-former Mrs Trump during their divorce proceedings and the other involving a husband and wife involved in publicizing a beauty pageant Trump owned), and there these matters are supposed to have ended. The fact these incidents remain matters of active public speculation is largely a result of Donald Trump running his mouth post-settlement from what I have read of the public record.

The more recent civil accusation against Donald Trump and Jeffrey Epstein is much more troubling. It is also a charge Donald Trump hasn't formally responded to yet, so any possible exculpatory evidence is presumably yet to be revealed. For the moment at least, it seems only proper to leave the matter to the courts for now. I think there is sufficient public scrutiny on the allegation that the legal process will proceed as it is expected to in this country.

For those who may be screaming at their computer screens about now, "You Trumpeter!", allow me to point out this slightly inconvenient matter of public record. Do please note the date I wrote that. Also, let it here be noted that the last time I voted for a Republican candidate was in the presidential election of 1984. Let it further be noted that Ronald Reagan did not fail to disappoint.

Because I believe in Due Process and the legal notion of Innocent Until Proven Guilty, I find it necessary, if only as an effort to achieve philosophical consistency, to stand behind those principles no matter how disgusting or trivial I may personally find anyone else's alleged behavior to be or have been. Even the behavior of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

Political elections are, in there most fundamental sense, an exercise in the rendering of judgement as to the suitability of the candidates contending for the office, based upon those people's public record of accomplishment and personal character. Our judgement, as in We The People.

Should it become apparent at any point during that process of rendered judgement that any (pray never all, even if you are as agnostic on the topic of religion as I am, that circumstance truly would be politically catastrophic) of the candidates appear manifestly unsuited for the office, it is our duty as citizens to vote for some other candidate, however tertiary - or worse - their qualifications might in a more perfect world seem. This is not "choosing the lessor of two evils", it is selecting the best qualified candidate following due consideration of all of the available choices. Since no one can reliably predict the future accomplishments that might be achieved, we must necessarily make these judgements based upon the individual candidates prior display of character, to the degree we can reliably determine that to have been.

Rather than become incensed about this character defect or that previous action (or lack thereof), better I find to simply move on to the candidate that I judge to have fewest of the character traits I find objectionable. It has been my considered opinion that both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are, simply as a result of their previous displays of unsuitable personal character, not qualified for the office of President of the United States. I encourage all of my fellow citizens to accept this circumstance and select the most qualified candidate for that office from those that remain eligible for us to vote for in 2016. Going forward, debate rightly ought to focus on our varied judgements of the remaining acceptable candidates qualifications for the office.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

He Said What!?!

Oh, the horrors ...

Or not.

Definitely "not".

So, 11 years ago (or there abouts - there seems to be a good deal of guessing about the actual timeline here), Donald Trump was on his way to be interviewed about some TV gig or other he had managed to get himself onto, and the "journalist" doing the interview sandbagged him about the microphones being on apparently. Or maybe The Donald was just that ate up with the hubristic stupid as to not care whether or not they were on.  Either way, he got recorded saying something pretty crass about the types of behavior "stars" can get away with. Not ever having been a "star" myself, I couldn't really say from direct experience, but having seen some pretty outrageous examples of public behavior by actual film and television stars over my lifetime (Dean Martin sloppy drunk and apparently trying out material for a late-night Vegas stage appearance on The Tonight Show when that was a live broadcast anyone?), I'm kinda surprised actual people found this particular example to be all that offensive (Sean Connery slapping some random American babe on her ass as she walks by on the street ring any bells anyone?).

Let's also be clear, I first became a US Navy sailor 45 years ago. Quite frankly, I can remember ... well, not conversations really ... call them verbal displays of one-up-manship that involved reputed incidents of inter-gender relationship behavior and much more crass and crude language than Donald Trump probably has ever heard uttered in his presence. Ever. Basically, Trump asserted a commonly held belief about celebrities as being true and, at the urging of the "journalist" you understand, proceeded to illustrate his point by mangling the Bowling Ball Joke. If you've been on Facebook recently, you can't have missed the rabid assertions of how this equals rape, or worse.

[See that search engine box in the corner of your screen? Type in the words "how are women like a bowling ball" for yourself. I mangle jokes when I try to tell them too.]

Fairly de riguer fare for The Friars Club, or so I understand. I've never been there either, sadly, so I couldn't say personally.

Don't get me wrong, a president, or even a presidential candidate, saying something this crudely in public is unacceptable behavior. The President doing so in private shows questionable judgement at the very least. That being said, some real estate guy playing up his reputation for outlandishness so as to invent a TV personality for himself to play in-between RE moguling (or more plainly stated, political rent seeking and tax farming)? Considering the moral level he was starting out from, we should all be grateful Donald Trump is this verbally lazy, if you ask me.

The American republic has survived alcoholics (Grant), flagrant racists (Wilson), and crass and crude boors (LBJ, Nixon) occupying the Oval Office before now; the country will likely survive Trump or another Clinton sullying the place again too.

Frankly, I'm more concerned about Barack Obama successfully getting us into a nuclear shooting war with Russia before the 45th President even has a chance to muff the Oath of Office. But let's all focus our attention on something said a decade ago, and get all outraged about what wasn't actually said while we're at it. The fact that I live over a hundred miles from any of the likely nuclear targets and their fallout patterns isn't as reassuring as you probably think it ought to be, given the Traitor-in-Chief's track record in office so far.

Monday, October 3, 2016

On Alliance, Part 2

Edit: Since there apparently exists an active opposition to even permitting discussion of the ideas I raise here on HEMA fora, this is published out of my sense of completeness and ease of future data retrieval.

In Part 1 of this series, I introduced the idea of an alliance between an established marketer of digital designs and engineering plans and the HEMA Alliance. Here I discuss to what end we might do so.

Over the last few years the generic rubric "3D printing" (which is actually referring to two separate steps in the design and additive manufacturing of objects) has become much more commonplace outside of science fiction novels as well as much more economically attainable to the average citizen. How do we who study and practice history become adepts at the bleeding edge of the future too?

Now comes Chris Byrne, former martial artist, former SCA fighter, former firearms manufacturer and repair specialist, former (still current?) NRA firearms safety instructor, banking (and other) industry network security administrator manager (he bosses the admins), cancer survivor, and current online instructor on computer network security. In private conversations, Chris has assured me that a 40 to 80 hour course of instruction would be more than ample to prepare an uneducated computer user to take and pass the Cisco CCNA 60 day course and thereby become employable in the computer network security field.

That's 1 month on the dole basically (two weeks of 40 hour days of prep training followed by two 30 hour weeks studying the CCNA course work), to go from computer network security zero to potential entry-level employable computer network security nerd. Or, you could be a more fully functional human and do the same over 4 months or so of evenings and weekends (9 nine hour weeks of prep studies and 8 eight hour weeks of CCNA). You could take longer of course, and probably should if you can afford to, but this isn't an impossibly heavy workload for such a limited period of time. You would then need to search out the location for the next scheduled CCNA test you can afford to get to and pay for to complete the process.

I haven't asked Chris to plot out a similar course of instruction for 3D printer operator (his next cancer surgery is scheduled for 29 September [edit: surgery went well apparently and he is progressing through the expected-to-be trying recovery process], so asking for any sort of time consuming favor is right out, as my Lincolnshire former in-laws would have said), but I can't imagine it would be that much more difficult to get into than the network security gig is. YouTube is loaded with videos about the subject. How hard can it really be?

That said, you have to ask yourself how reliable and accurate is your data source, and how specific is it to what you want to accomplish? Cue Michael Chidester here if there's any question regarding the critical nature of these questions. Having access to a course of instruction that takes into consideration the characteristics of the objects you are most likely to want to manufacture, as well as the materials you would most likely want to build with, would seem a useful attribute for such an instruction course to offer.

Were the HEMA Alliance Governing Council to negotiate with Chris' employer (or any of the reputable online instruction businesses that exist via the modern 'net) to develop a course of instruction for HEMA club members around the world to use to learn to make their own training weapons and safety gear, we in HEMA would have an alternative option to those that presently exist when it comes to gearing up. So, it should be pointed out, would our existing sources of supply gain options to expand their capability to meet our wants and needs. To complete our strategic Opportunity, we would also have a possible source of club (and personal) income going forward.

If the HEMA Alliance, in partnership with others, were to maintain a general database of digital designs and engineering plans for the membership to use (or license for commercial activity), we would have access to a source for individual construction of pretty much any HEMA-related historic object entered therein. By having successfully passed the suggested Additive Manufacturing Design and Construction instruction course maintained on the HEMA Alliance web page (whom we each would pay in order to take the course - HEMA is a non-profit, not a charity), we would learn the technical capability and design knowledge necessary to modify the additive construction process to incorporate personal variations to a generic design pattern. Our training gear would be both unique to us and uniform in structural design safety standards.

We would also have the means to contract with other businesses - large and small, local and international - to manufacture components for them. For the very modest fee our business agent Mr. Barzini, err ... the HEMA Alliance Governing Council will negotiate for us, of course (or at least arrange for a boilerplate contract form we could buy from them to use in contract negotiations with any company we might contract with).

No, we won't do this overnight, or even next year. No, it won't be anything like as easy to accomplish as this might seem to suggest - what of value ever is?

Discussion of plans is an inherent part of their development and improvement, so I offer here a suggested plan for we in HEMA to research and consider for development. No individual member, even a life member, should have the authority to decide such a complex and far reaching decision as that being suggested here. Thus, what I have suggested so far is at best mostly incomplete and lacking in many critical details.

In it's basic form though, I propose we consider arranging alliances and partnerships with those companies and individuals who can assist us in expanding our capabilities to support and extend our study and practice of HEMA, as generally outlined herein.

How say you all?