September 20, 2014

Just a flesh wound

Hits to USS San Francisco during the First Naval Battle of Guadalcanal as recorded in the Gunfire Damage Report, dated November 13, 1942.

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As every schoolchild knows, a portion of the ship's bridge, removed during repairs, resides at Lands End in San Francisco, California.

More of them libarel facts

[T]he right is railing against the bums on welfare not only when there aren’t any bums, but when there isn’t any welfare.

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Get a government

It is one of the paradoxes of the British that we have been skilled at constructing federal constitutions for other countries. British blood flowed through the veins of the American founding fathers who wrote the constitution of the United States. When Australia and Canada became independent, they did so as federal states. After the second world war, the allies, Brits to the fore, devised a federal constitution for Germany that has served that country well. It is here on our own islands that we have always struggled, ever since William Gladstone was thwarted over home rule for Ireland in the 19th century.

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Time to switch to Premier League?

Nate Silver makes the case here.

Got no time...keep movin'

Jack goes to DMV

September 17, 2014

On behalf of 15 year-old me: FUCK YOUR GUIDANCE

Not invincible: Alaska teens pursuing risky outdoor recreation need guidance

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You think you got problems

When historians come to write how and why Scotland was lost – or nearly lost – from the United Kingdom, they would do well to focus on the effete stupidity of our leaders...

The nullity that is Ed Miliband is well known; however, it can still surprise. Take this stirring article he wrote in Sunday’s Observer, urging Scots to vote No; hearken, in particular, to his lucid plea about the new Scottish politics: “But this mood of change is not just about how we are governed; crucially, it is about who we are governed for.” Yes. Who we are governed for. I’m glad someone had the guts to make that complex point so clear, as too many people think this is a debate about “why we are governed at”, or “when we are governed isn’t”.

 - The Telegraph

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September 16, 2014

YES, THAT'S RIGHT: THE EVIDENCE DISAPPEARED...AGAIN


[T]he NSA recently told Greenewald they could not find even one original of the hundreds of pages UFO files.

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September 14, 2014

From Friday's Guardian

Johan Cruyff has come home to Amsterdam and, on a cloudy day in the old city where he was born, grew up and made his professional debut for Ajax 50 years ago this November, he moves with good-humoured elegance through the crowds calling out his name and trying to touch him. At the Olympic Stadium, walking around an arena that has been taken over for the day by his Foundation, this is an exercise in the familiar art of being Johan Cruyff. The 67-year-old reacts to the adoration, and even being cuddled by a grown man dressed up as a “Cruyffie” mascot, with a wry smile. This is how it feels to have been a football superstar for five decades.

...

“It’s like everything in football – and life. You need to look, you need to think, you need to move, you need to find space, you need to help others. It’s very simple in the end.”

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I approved this message

September 13, 2014

Nice Radio Player Site

TuneIn.com, doing something very old and strangely new: creating a metasite of worldwide radio stations (I search by city) and web radio sites that is easy to search and seems to work quite well, basically one page to search, and one page to play.

It's so good I suddenly feel like the future of search is not general, with its spew of irrelevant, pay-to-play and overwhelming results, but well-organized search sites about specific genres and topics, which present graphically identified, curated, functional, up-to-date content.

Amazon, Ebay, Google, Yahoo, Facebook, vastly too much crap, still. Far, far too general and untrustworthy. The small sites that work well are refreshing. 

Note 1, nothing new but often forgotten: well made images are usually much quicker to spot on a complex page of information than words.  Precise but limited use of them is one things that makes a great site. Buzzfeed, for all its nonsense, is very good this.

Note 2, also not just in, the use of circles as borders for faces is excellent graphically.

I listen to somafm.com for example, which is commercial-free and generally good music, but mostly because it works quickly and painlessly, and is easy to navigate, using distinct, evocative graphics.

September 12, 2014

Sensible plans for sensible times

Now that the Six Californias initiative has succumbed to common sense and reason, isn't it time to resuscitate the Five Texas plan?

The first rule of Palin Fight Club is...

...you do not talk about Palin Fight Club!

Please Enjoy This Heartwarming Palin Family Story

Through a series of sources, first from TPM..

" The details are a little sketchy, but there’s enough of them, from enough different sources, that a story emerges, a story that according to the gossip Gods, looks kind of like this: There’s some sort of unofficial birthday/Iron Dog-type/snowmachine party in Anchorage. A nice, mellow party, until the Palin’s show up. There’s beer, of course, and maybe other things. Which is all fine, but just about the time when some people might have had one too many, a Track Palin stumbles out of a stretch Hummer, and immediately spots an ex-boyfriend of Willow’s. Track isn’t happy with this guy, the story goes. There’s words, and more. The owner of the house gets involved, and he probably wished he hadn’t. At this point, he’s up against nearly the whole Palin tribe: Palin women screaming. Palin men thumping their chests. Word is that Bristol has a particularly strong right hook, which she employed repeatedly, and it’s something to hear when Sarah screams, “Don’t you know who I am!” And it was particularly wonderful when someone in the crowd screamed back, “This isn’t some damned Hillbilly reality show!” No, it’s what happens when the former First Family of Alaska comes knocking. As people were leaving in a cab, Track was seen on the street, shirtless, flipping people off, with Sarah right behind him, and Todd somewhere in the foreground, tending to his bloody nose."

Somewhere near here, in Anchorage.

UPDATE: Bristol Palin Attacks!

September 10, 2014

The Natural

A long time ago, in East Amsterdam, there was a boy who lived by the soccer stadium.  His father died when he was 12, and the stadium became his second home.  He joined the youth team of Ajax, the local club.  He built up his game year by year, until one day, they promoted him to the first team.  And then he started scoring goals, and didn't stop until Ajax had won three European Cups, and Barcelona FC was knocking on his door, one hand extended in friendship, and the other holding the largest transfer fee in the history of the world.

Billy Martin once said "money doesn't talk, it screams."  So maybe it's that simple.  Except in Barcelona - avatars of the Catalan people, club motto: "more than a club" - it can't be all about the money.  Johan Cruyff joins a team of underachievers...plenty of talent, but they don't quite know what to do with it.  Without him, they are ok, losing two of their first seven in 1973.  Once he joins up, they go on a 24 match unbeaten streak.  In Franco's Spain, the Catalonians deliver an epic 5-0 beatdown of Madrid that they still talk about today.  Cruyff leaves no doubt about whose side he's on, saying he could never play for a team associated with Franco.

They remember that sort of thing in Catalonia

(This 90-minute documentary, En Un Momento Dado - In the Given Moment - explores his Barcelona career in detail.)

The oddest thing about watching Cruyff on film is that he seems to be playing somewhat normally, but everyone around him is constantly falling down.  You have a quick, agile fellow, light on his feet...



...(that move is now known as the Cruyff Turn), always starting and stopping, accelerating and decelerating, constantly reversing field.  But is it really that hard to check him?  Well, yes.  This run from his stint with the L.A. Aztecs (1979) is representative:



Another famous run, which I like to call Hello Deutschland! (starts at 0:15) came one minute into the 1974 World Cup Final.  Cruyff hesitates, then has a Rex Grossman "fuck it, I'm going deep" moment, dashing straight into the German defense.  They foul him, Neeskens converts...and now it's one-nil, and the first German to touch the ball is their goalie.  (The Dutch, overconfident perhaps, possibly a bit hung-over, went on to lose to a very disciplined German squad.  But still.)
    • 11 years old, Emilio Butragueño is watching.  Later he would say "it was so magical...he slows and speeds up twice within 45 meters, enough to completely disorient his opponent...  This play is permanently etched in my mind.  It's not that it changed my life, but with this Cruyff gave me insight into what soccer really was...  Football is an expression of what you have in you.  You go out onto the field to show who you are, to display your personality.  And in some way or other...art is able to uplift the viewer's soul."
A compilation of Cruyff's dribbling - hypnotic in its way - is here.

But, while Cruyff is trying to beat his man, he is also looking for his teammates.  Like Bird, like Gretzky, he sees things other people can't see.  Where teams will normally line three up at the front, Cruyff, playing center forward, might drop back as second striker, setting up a triangle.  Or, he might jump out to the wing.  This ability to move forward or back, to set up other players as well as himself, becomes a trademark not only of Cruyff's game, but of the Ajax team, and the Dutch Total Football system (these are out of stock, but I really want one).  Cruyff continues this approach during his successful tenure as manager of the Barcelona side from 1988-1996.  In 2004 he was asked to explain it on Dutch television:



All clear?

Cruyff is also insanely dangerous anywhere near the goal.  Amongst others you have:
  • Hello Argentina (Dutch National Team, 1974), in which he runs down the middle of the field, collects the ball in the box, runs around the goalie, and kicks it in the net.  Sometimes soccer is an easy game.
  • The Impossible Goal (Barcelona, 1974?) - In which Cruyff, noticing the ball traveling away from him at shoulder height, leaps in the air and deflects it with his foot, Kung-Fu style, into the goal.  
  • The Not-Offsides Penalty Assist (Ajax, 1982) in which Cruyff sets up the goal by the simple expedient of kicking it to a teammate.  (Not offsides, but harder than it looks.)
Cruyff was not just the best footballer of his generation, he was, I think, clearly one of the greatest athletes who ever lived:
  • Like Bird, he immediately improved the records of the teams he joined and assumed a leadership role.
  • Like Montana, he was the avatar of a revolutionary new style of play (Rinus Michels is Bill Walsh here).
  • Like Gretzky, he was a dominant offensive force without a power game, thanks to dexterity and vision.  Cruyff:  “What is speed? The sports press often confuses speed with insight. See, if I start running slightly earlier than someone else, I seem faster.”
  • Like Bird and Gretzky, he was not only a feared scorer, but was equally adept at setting up his teammates.
  • Like Jordan, he was the most feared one-on-one player of his generation.
  • Like Ali, he was not humble about his skills, and had no reason to be.
  • And, like Erving, he was beloved for his playground style, despite losing the biggest game of his life (Netherlands-Germany World Cup Final 1974, Sixers-Blazers 1977).
Unlike any of these men (well, partial credit for Bird), Cruyff went on to be a highly effective coach/manager/trainer, helping to create the dynasty that is Barcelona.  

Dude was awesome. Still is, frankly.  This documentary is good:

Enough already

I have no objection to sending our military to fight our enemies as required. However...



It is not the 'Homeland'.  It is, was, and always has been The United States of America.

On the same theme:
  • They are not 'assets', 'boots on the ground', or 'heroes'.  They are soldiers.
  • It is not 'blood and treasure'.  It is human lives and money.  Human lives are more important, by the way.
  • The soldiers of the United States of America are not 'degrading' enemy 'capability'.  They are killing enemy soldiers. 
  • It is not a 'mission', it is war.
Anyway, big party in Hell tonight, I'm sure.

September 08, 2014

And that's all there is to say about that... (turn sound on)

September 06, 2014

Yeah, it's on

#explainafilmplotbadly

All clear, Paul?

Even if you are sure — and be honest my Keynesian and monetarist friends, we are none of us sure — that your “soft money” policy will yield higher real production in aggregate than a hard money stagnation, you will be putting comfortable incumbents into jeopardy they otherwise need not face. Some of that higher return will be distributed to groups of people who are, under the present stability, hungry and eager to work, and there is no guarantee that the gain to the wealthy from excess aggregate return will be greater than the loss derived from a broader sharing of the pie. “Full employment” means ungrateful job receivers have the capacity to make demands that could blunt equity returns. And even if that doesn’t happen, even if the rich do get richer in aggregate, there will be winners and losers among them, each wealthy individual will face risks they otherwise need not have faced. Regression to the mean is a bitch.

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Observation

Blogger is to Google as Hong Kong is to China.

September 03, 2014

Eminem, To Scott Joplin

It's what that says, in one of the most Eisengeistian creations ever.

August 30, 2014

This is every Alaska real estate venture ever

That silence you hear? That's the sound of Atlas shrugging.

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Thanks for that information - I think

“This might be a good lesson for us today,” Dr. Disotell said. “Long-term stability still means you can disappear. After 4,300 years, bam, you’re gone in decades.”

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August 27, 2014

Well, no...


Civ 5 Memories

Well, that was a great summer, one of the best I've ever had.  Night after night, in Palo Alto, Paris, Amsterdam and Midland, Texas, I sat bathed in the soothing glow of my laptop screen, planning, negotiating, and sometimes fighting, through the history of a dozen civilizations that never were.

The game is the same as it ever was:  you build structures, you move units around, the AI makes ridiculous demands.  Friends betray you, enemies taunt you, and more often than not you quit sometime around 1969 as the exotic becomes familiar and the complexity slows each turn to a crawl. And then, enchanted by the possibilities, you start a new game, only this time you'll attack everyone like a crazed wolverine, no wait, you'll swear to never fight no matter what, or better still, you'll wait to declare war until everyone else is a basket case, ensuring global domination for generations to come.  And off we go, the new plan certain to fail in the face of capricious counterparties and endless contingency.

Civ 5 looks nice, even on my slightly retro equipment:



Game designer Jon Shafer has been, with benefit of hindsight, critical of some of his design choices, but this in most cases is unwarranted.  One particular decision transformed Civ 5 into a game where, for the first time, strategy and tactics really matter:
In this iteration of the series, tactical gameplay in combat is encouraged in place of overwhelming numerical force, with the introduction of new gameplay mechanisms. Most significantly, the square grid of the world map has been replaced with a hexagonal grid, a feature inspired by the 1994 game Panzer General, according to lead designer Jon Shafer.  In addition, each hexagonal tile, including city tiles, can accommodate only one military unit and one civilian unit or one great person at a time, forcing armies to spread out over large areas rather than being stacked onto a single tile. This has the effect of moving most large battles outside of the cities, and forces increased realism in sieges, which are now most effective when surrounding the city tile because of bonuses from flanking.
Wars are no longer simply matters of attrition, or racing to gunpowder.  Unbalanced armies will lose to slightly less modern armies properly supported with ranged units.  Attacks on cities that are not supported by serious siege equipment will almost always fail - in my final campaign I watched Queen Elizabeth and Theodora of Byzantium each lose two entire armies in frontal assaults on a well-defended and heavily-Wondered Berlin.

Trade routes, religion, puppet states...the game has it all.  It is a joy to play, and thanks to serious artistic and musical work, a joy to look at and listen to as well:



So many great memories:

  • Evil George Washington commits to the ideology of order to challenge my upstart Zulus' commitment to liberty.
  • Sacking Byzantium.  ****, would pillage again.  Like the man said...  "I...  I... I... feel something so right, doing the wrong thing..."
  • As the Ottomans, slapping the shit out of Bismarck, repeatedly, according to this formula:
    • Bismarck attacks a weaker neighbor because what else is Bismarck going to do.
    • I wait two turns, then declare war on him.
    • My Ottoman Janissaries, supported by cannon, decimate the medieval units defending his rear.
    • He makes peace by surrendering a city.
    • And then we do it again, all the way to Berlin.
  • Fucking psycho George Washington acting all nice for 1000 years, then going postal because I was crowding his manifest destiny.  Before it was over, every hex of his empire that could burn, was burning.  That'll teach him, the fucking fucker.  Fucking George Washington, man, what a fucking dick.
  • As Anne of Austria, building the largest empire in the world without ever engaging in armed conflict, thanks to some lucky trade routes and her hilariously imbalancing superpower, "Diplomatic Marriage", or as I prefer to call it, vaginal Finlandization.
  • The moment of revelation when I realized that, as Enrico Dandolo of Venice, although I could not create new cities, there was nothing to stop me from seizing them, thanks to abundant close-range fire support from my Grand Galleass units.  Serenissima, my ass.
There are some issues, notably AI that, as Shafer has correctly confessed, is so situation-dependent that consistency of character is lost.  On the other hand, is that so wrong?  Gandhi was a nice man who won with niceness against a (relatively) nice opponent.  In another context, would he have been so nice, or would he have adapted his tactics to the situation?  The game ends up posing a fairly deep question:  is the observed behavior of a civilization - say German aggression 1870-1945 - better attributed to situational factors, or to the character of a specific leader?  I don't know, but, as unrealistic as the AI behavior might feel, I can't say it's ahistorical.  Who would have thought the 4th Crusade would end the way it did, with the destruction of the finest city in Christendom by a Christian army?  Yes, it's random, it's frustrating, it's situational...and so is pretty much all the history that has happened so far.

The greatest achievement of this game is the subtle ongoing process of education, cultural imperialism if you will.  Civilization, after all, is not war, it is the opposite.  Great works of art, music, and writing are respected, sampled, displayed.  Wonders confer not only game effects, but aesthetic effects as well.  And, sometimes, however briefly, we're in danger of actually learning something...


Great game.

"I've got your neutral field right here."


August 26, 2014

TMQ is wrong

Gregg Easterbrook, who writes with the certainty of God and the cold factual accuracy of Cecil B. DeMille, expresses the view that in a playoff series "luck might determine the victor in any one game; after seven games, the best team almost always wins."

Hahahaha, whatta maroon.  What an ill-informed, uneducated, and unnecessarily verbose person.  Hmm, wonder what else he has to say this week...(returns to reading TMQ).

Anyway, the correct answer is here.

GOP Leading Among Elderly Youth Demo

Onion vid.

August 24, 2014

Good plan

The army was abolished soon after the Austro-Prussian War, in which Liechtenstein fielded an army of 80 men, although they were not involved in any fighting...

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August 23, 2014

It needed to be said

Yglesias:

It's striking that President Obama...seems oblivious to this torrent of white killing. To be fair to the White House, however, it would be uniquely difficult for Obama to address this delicate issue. The real tragedy is that none of Obama's 43 white predecessors have addressed it either. Indeed, looking back on America's political iconography, there are disturbing trends toward the glorification of white violence. Peer inside the US Capitol building, and you'll find a monument to Confederate President Jefferson Davis — the leader of an insurgency that caused an unprecedented quantity of violent white deaths.

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August 22, 2014

Clinton?

Is There Such A Thing As A 'Good Psychopath'?


This fellow nominates Churchill...

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Well, Then.

Sci American quick interview: 


Horgan: Do multiverse theories and quantum gravity theories deserve to be taken seriously if they cannot be falsified?

Rovelli: No.

Adorable Kittens of the Great War

Via Paul Krugman, please see this collection of photos of cats serving in WWI.


August 21, 2014

Further Updates Unnecessary

Study: 79% of Statistics Now Sobering.

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