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Comment: Re:..about World War One (Score 1) 236 236

In one of the best military history classes I took as a budding young officer, we learned that the largest defence budget in the world belonged to Great Britain until the Suez Crisis of 1956. Once Ike shafted the 1) British and 2) French, they started on the road towards respectively 1) getting out of the role of "world's policeman" and 2) eyeballing the exits from NATO (actually done in 1966). The US defense budget soon eclipsed that of Great Britain. Of course, that gave the USA something to do with all the European gold that had made its way to Ft. Knox by 1945.

Comment: Re:..about World War One (Score 1) 236 236

Had the US not started off relations with the New Russia with a failed coup, perhaps it would have been different.

Most of Lenin's advisers were delusional enough to reject the initial German peace offer of early 1917 as they waited for all of Europe to descend into Bolshevik revolution. I strongly doubt President Calvin Coolidge and Vladimir Illych Lenin would have been toasting good relations with carbonated grape juice in the Prohibition White House of the early 1920's. The capitalist western powers loathed the Soviet Union from day one, but Franklin Roosevelt's Administration had so many sympathizers that one has to question the usual narrative of, "we wuz robbed at Yalta." I figure "Old Whiskers" calculation was that the democracies had no stomach for fighting another war so soon after Hitler's fall, so he dropped his Iron Curtain across Europe and then grinned. As for any worries that Russians might object to his aggressiveness triggering a war with Britain and the USA, such dissent could be liquidated handily.

Comment: Re:Not really news (Score 1) 236 236

Just about every American I've met that has mentioned the first world war has taken extra care to inform me of that. It also seems to come up a lot whenever an American wants to say something bad about the French, and wants to take the line "we saved them twice and they do this?". I'm even on the same side of the world as the French but I've seen the attitude go from "land of Lafayette" to "cheese eating surrender monkies" over what seems to be a short span of time.

Personally, I have enormous respect for the French military of the pike-and-shot era through World War I. The severe fissures in French society of the interwar period had an enormous impact on the resulting collapse at Sedan (again). Communist-sympathetic workers and unions deliberately dragged their feet on helping France arm for the looming war with Nazi Germany. Throw in a lot of gloom, dark memories of the huge casualty lists from World War I, and a lot of defeatism at the top.

That's been the prevailing view in Australia and N.Z. since April 1915.

The Dardanelles (Gallipolli) Campaign highlights a never-ending dynamic of naval warfare. The British-French fleet very nearly breached the Bosporus and could have potentially pushed Turkey out of the Central Powers using 15 inch naval rifles. Unfortunately, the loss of a few capital ships during the breaching operation caused the senior admiral to call off the attack when it was very close to success. At the Battle of Leyte Gulf, the Japanese admiral had the American troop transports dead to rights, but broke off as he feared the loss of capital ships as the American escort carrier task forces threw everything they had at his battleships. Just recently, the US Navy was criticized for withdrawing the usual two fleet carriers that operated in the Persian (Arabian) Gulf. The civilian/politician criticism would be that if we can't risk these capital ships when it matters most, then we shouldn't build them in the first place. Coaches don't leave their Heisman Trophy winners on the sidelines in big games (except for Pete Carroll with Reggie Bush, but I digress).

Comment: Re:..about World War One (Score 1) 236 236

The German "Great General Staff" considered a huge number of plans, conducting "staff rides" for the ones that might be applicable to a future conflict. I read the summary of "1901" on Amazon's website and have to dismiss it out of hand for a complete lack of basis in reality. I am willing to bet the Great General Staff did not conduct a staff ride regarding this plan to tackle the USA. Note that Alfred Thayer Mahan published his treatise on sea power around 1900 and pointed out how critical naval bases were for projecting sea power. Admiral Tirpitz embraced Mahan's concept of the "fleet in being" during World War One and it succeeded in tying down a huge portion of the Royal Navy. In the "Age of Coal," Germany's fleet was coal-fueled and built only to dispute control of the North Sea and English Channel. The German warship ("panzerschiffe") designers' emphasis on armor and compartmentalization meant their ships did not have the range to conduct a campaign against the US East Coast. Their lack of overseas coaling stations would have crippled their ability to seriously threaten the USA. A cursory skim of Conroy's other alternate histories indicates a lack of appreciation for the financial and logistical realities of warfare. The old saw is still true, "Amateurs study tactics, generals study logistics." Note that American Joint Planning Board simply triggered "War Plan Rainbow 5" even as the bombs were falling on Pearl Harbor. It was one of many, many plans that had been drawn up before full American participation in WWII ensued. Maybe an alternate history called "War Plan Gold" would be interesting - it was the Joint Planning Board's plan for a war against the French Empire. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R...

Comment: Re:..about World War One (Score 1) 236 236

It's hard to imagine the United States joining the Central Powers, particularly when one "follows the money." Courtesy of the Royal Navy blockade, Britain and France were huge, vigorous markets for all manner of American goods throughout World War One. Like the British considering whether to enter the American Civil War on the side of the Confederacy, the overseas power found itself mostly shut out from a market by a blockade. However, the loss of one trading partner was more than compensated for by the gains from maintaining the other. I believe the USA faced a much higher financial price for joining the Central Powers than for either remaining neutral or entering on the side of the Entente Powers. Alternate history is certainly an interesting field to me. One of my favorite books is "The Difference Engine," in which Charles Babbage's "difference engine" was a huge success leading to the Industrial Revolution combined with the Information Revolution through the middle decades of the 19th Century.

Comment: Re:..about World War One (Score 1) 236 236

The 'no parachutes' directive is another reflection of the British approach: lots of aggression, show the flag, and casualties be damned. The Royal Flying Corps compounded this problem in a similar fashion to the British infantry on the ground. In the air, the RFC was "the aggressor," pushing a lot of patrols past "no man's land" to overfly German positions. This would result in more British than German exposure to anti-aircraft fire, resulting in more planes and pilots hit. To compound the issue and the casualties, the prevailing winds over France and Belgium are from the west. This often meant that a 110 mph aircraft would incur battle damage, then have to overcome a 10-30 mph headwind for the return flight home at whatever speed the aircraft could manage. In the case of the German air service, the lack of parachutes was not as damaging since their pilots were usually less exposed to danger and generally operated closer to home. This dynamic was essentially repeated in World War Two as the British Bomber Command overflew German-occupied territory for years while Luftwaffe pilots were often shot down many times, but could return to service as quickly as a new fighter plane could be fielded. As for the British infantry on the ground in World War One, the Germans quickly learned that occupying a trench-line in the British sector was more nerve-wracking than in the French sector. The British infantry launched frequent nighttime raids through no man's land to demonstrate aggression, show the flag, and maybe pinch a prisoner with some useful information. As a result, the British tended to incur more casualties during routine trench occupation rotations. The real value of these operations in a sector that was essentially impassable for most of the war (low-lying, flood-prone Flanders) is highly questionable.

Comment: ..about World War One (Score 2) 236 236

The narrative we learn about World War One (1914-1918) in English-speaking countries is a distorted product of the victors that is cartoonish and incomplete. Everyone knows about "All Quiet on the Western Front" but few English-speakers have read "The Storm of Steel," also written by a German soldier. (Spoiler alert: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S...) John Mosier is a revisionist historian who is asking some penetrating questions that have made many historians uncomfortable as they poke holes in his details while being unable to refute his central thesis - British and French casualties were roughly double those of the German army they faced along the Western Front. Mosier makes a strong case that if the USA had never entered the war, Germany likely would have taken over France in 1918. The American "arsenal of democracy" and the successes of the American Expeditionary Force under Pershing doomed Germany. They also got Britain and France's irons out of the fire. Keep in mind that "invading Russia is suicide" did not apply in World War One as Germany gobbled up Russia practically to the gates of Moscow by the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T... . Here are my personal questions based on having been fed the World War One story primarily by British authors: 1) Why did Britain go to war with Royal Navy battlecruisers doomed by thin armor and extremely vulnerable gunpowder http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H... ? 2) Why did the Royal Flying Corps refuse to issue parachutes to their pilots for the entire war while their balloonists used them for years http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R... ? 3) Why were the British still launching suicidal human wave attacks AFTER TWO YEARS OF TRENCH WARFARE (July 1, 2016 - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B... )? One can only reasonably conclude the British leadership from the level of general/admiral and above had almost no regard for the human lives with which they had been entrusted.

Comment: Re:Suits like old technology (Score 1) 243 243

Actually, you can type out things like 1-800-BEST-BUY on a Blackberry. Just hold down the ALT key as you type each letter. The device will translate to the appropriate number for the phone call such as a 2 for B.


Comment: Value in the eye of the beholder (Score 4, Interesting) 243 243

We live in economic exchange-based societies. While you may not value a business card that is handed to you in one of these exchanges, the other person may greatly value it. Even in Westernized Japan, the exchange of business cards is an important ritual and you would be seen as frivolous and irrelevant if you could not offer one. Personally, I like business cards because I tend to pause and write down some key facts about the person on the back of their card if I found them interesting. Another advantage of paper cards is they can exchanged quickly without as much fumbling as is often involved with electronic devices. Let's be honest, how many times have we spent five minutes doing something with an electronic device that we could have done in less than a minute using other tools at hand? Every tool has some associated overhead and while electronics are generally best for handling information, they have their limitations too.

The bottom line is that if you are trying to provide yourself with every edge to beat the competition, it would be stupid to stop handing out professional-looking, calling cards. Besides, the vast majority of people who dislike business cards and will shun you for handing them around are probably too young to have much money or power. In another 20 years, you may need to be a lot more careful about handing out paper cards. Obviously, it would be best to just ask someone if they prefer a quick email with a vcard or a paper card or both. Personally, I would like both.

Comment: Re:Rapid Fire Civic Lesson for Americans (Score 1) 390 390

I never gave the colors much thought. What about blue for Democrats as the states near the oceans vote mostly Democrat? What about red for Republicans as they think they are "red-blooded"? The military always depicts opposing sides as red vs blue. I was Red Team (Opposing Force or OPFOR) during many battle simulations where I managed a large chunk of the North Korean People's Army in the late '90's. The NKPA is a paper army now. It was cheaper for N. Korea to build nuclear weapons than to modernize that 1960's era mechanized army. They would probably run out of fuel in less than two weeks if a war came.

Comment: Rapid Fire Civic Lesson for Americans (Score 2) 390 390

The United States of America is a Federal Republic, not a democracy. Rather than the people directly governing, they choose representatives who govern on their behalf, thus "republic". The rules that govern elections were first established in the Constitution (ratified in 1789) and then amended periodically.

You must be at least 18 years old to vote (by Constitutional Amendment) on the first Tuesday in November of an even numbered year. If you live in a US state, you have 2 Senators, regardless of the state's population size. Each Senator had to be at least 30 years old when they were elected and 1/3 of the total of 100 come up for election every even numbered year. You can directly vote for each of them when their must stand for election every 6 years. Until the late 19th Century(?), Senators were voted in by state legislators.

You live in a single US House of Representatives district. Your Representative had to be at least 25 years old when they were elected and all 438 of them nationwide stand for election every even numbered year. As the population has been shifting towards the Sunbelt, each Census has resulted in more and more Reps coming from Sunbelt states and fewer from states losing population.

You don't vote for President, you essentially "indicate a preference". The President, minimum age of 35, is actually elected by the Electoral College, bunches of political party members who cast their votes around 6 weeks after Election Day. Each state gets a minimum of 3 members, 1 for each Senator and 1 for each member of the House of Representatives, so Wyoming gets 3 and California gets about 54 for a grand total of 538/- electors. Nearly all the states use a winner-take-all approach, so when a presidential candidate receives a majority of the votes from a given state, all of that state's electoral college members are obliged to cast their vote for that candidate when the Electoral College convenes. If one refuses, they are known as a "faithless elector". Two states, Maine and Nebraska(?) use proportional representation for their electors instead of "winner take all". Other states are considering this approach.

Debates endlessly rage about the merits and demerits of this system. For good and ill it has evolved into its current state over the last 222 years. I did not consult any notes, just going from memory here so feel free to chime in...

As for the impact of this system, political scientists have simplified the analysis of Presidential elections by labeling states as either "red", "blue", or "swing" (meaning neither red nor blue). A red state is expected to cast its electoral votes for the Republican candidate, a blue state for the Democratic candidate, and a swing state is up for grabs. Once the single Republican and single Democratic candidate face off after their respective party conventions at which they are formally designated as the candidates, the major focus is on the swing states as they try to win a majority of votes and thus all the electors in each of those states. Many of the "solid red" and "solid blue" states will be nearly ignored other than as sources of funds, volunteers, and other resources. e.g. California has been a reliably "blue" state for many years so the blue and red candidates will only briefly visit it a few times prior to election day. No semi-serious political scientist expects a Republican candidate to win California's electoral votes in 2012. Until another state is added to the Union (still a possibility - I'm lookin' at you Puerto Rico), the winning number is 270 electoral votes. The requirement only to win 270 electoral votes rather than the nationwide popular vote is why a number of candidates have become President without getting at least 50% of the nationwide popular vote (Bush in 2000, Clinton in 1996(?), Clinton in 1992, Kennedy in 1960(?), Wilson in 1912(?), Hayes in 1876, Lincoln in 1860(?). Most of these were caused by third-party candidates splitting the popular vote among more candidates. The two most contested elections were Bush/Gore in 2000 and Hayes/Tilden in 1876, both involving voting irregularities in Florida.

Here is a series of interesting red/blue maps from the 2008 election Maps of the 2008 US presidential election results

Now that you see how binary the system is, you can understand why people often feel they are forced to choose "between the lesser of two evils". Skip the lesser evils, Cthulhu for President 2012. Why vote for a lesser evil?

Comment: Microsoftie's long dance with MSFT (Score 1) 521 521

I was first certified on MS-DOS 6.22 and Windows 3.1 and most recently on Windows Server 2XXX so I have been watching "Little Blue" for about 20 years now. (I ran Windows 1.0 on my 8088.) As Robert Metcalfe (3Com founder) recommended in the late '90s during the Department of Justice monopoly case against Microsoft, Bill Gates should have been fired, just as he and so many other company founders had been when their companies passed the early stages where the "Cowboy Entrepreneur" was the ideal CEO. Steve Ballmer was Gates' handpicked successor and has proven just as awful as most such second acts prove to be when the "Great Man" steps aside. Other than Steve Jobs, how many tech company founders stayed on as CEO "forever" leading their firms to greater and greater triumphs? Larry Ellison at Oracle? Rod Canion at Compaq? Scott McNealy? While Bill Gates was visionary about the future in many very accurate ways (smaller devices, triumph of the tablet, ubiquitous computing, intuitive familiar interfaces aka "Windows Everywhere"), he and Ballmer have been utterly incapable of making Microsoft a viable part of that future.

First, the few accomplishments during the long twilight of MSFT: 1 - share of the server market has risen from a few percent to over half. 2 - Xbox and a major share of the enormous gaming market. 3 - Hanging onto the desktop platform and office suite crowns/cash cows.

Now, the long list of failures, many spectacular, which have left Microsoft a profligate spectator while tech has conquered the world using much of the framework Microsoft contributed to so much: 1 - Miniscule share of the ubiquitous computing market: Windows Phone, tablet, and even netbook pieces are abysmally small. 2 - Windows Millenium Edition debuted in 2000 and was a dinosaur that was DOA. Many many heads should have rolled when that was unconscionably foisted on consumers and MSFT shareholders. It was another bloated, pretty version of a product that was perfect for 1998 and out of its league well before 2002. 3 - Windows Vista. Extreme bloat, countless useless, unwanted features, utter unsuitability for corporate use/support; many firms skipped straight from XP to Windows 7 which should have been Vista all along - Win 7 is basically the good version of Vista and even it is not a good tablet or netbook OS, missing massive parts of the market. 4 - MSN - a horror show and black hole for shareholder funds. 5 - Because It's Not Google (BING) - a poor shadow of Google. At least it finally does a decent job of finding Microsoft TechNet articles, something I relied on Google to handle for nearly 10 years. 6 - Live.com - you may not have heard of this, but it is Microsoft's free offering in cloud computing. Naturally it assumes your clients will be Internet Explorer which means Microsoft OS-based platforms, and those in turn are limited to PC's and laptops. Tablet and smartphone users (iPhone, Android, Symbian) - better luck next time; guess you will turn to an alternative. 7 - Microsoft.com - after about the third complete redesign I gave up on finding anything there without Google. Like I said, BING finally has some handle on the site, but it was mostly chaos for about 10 years when the Internet was getting rather important. 8 - The .NET architecture - yet again, Microsoft arrogance assumes its platform to be omnipresent and refuses to play well with others while "others" continue to grow at geometric rates while desktops and laptops remain stagnant in the saturated markets of developed countries. I could go on and on.

Seriously, for the defenders of a company that's biggest accomplishment of the last 10 years was milking two cash cows and finally sharing a bit of the milk with long-suffering investors, you need your investing heads examined. Whether or not MSFT is brilliantly run, it is part of a universe of potential investments and has had remarkably little to offer while many of its competitors have enjoyed far greater success: AAPL, GOOG, ORCL, IBM, and so on. I used to laugh bitterly at Microsoft's ad campaign against the Department of Justice monopoly case that Microsoft "needed the freedom to innovate" ? Monopolistic practices were not innovations and neither was WindowsME, Exchange 2000, Windows PhoneOS, WindowsCE, ad infinitum. Microsoft wanted the freedom to go on knee-capping or swallowing whole their competition while praying some guy in a garage didn't make them irrelevant. The Open Source movement (bunches of guys in garages), Steve Jobs, and Steve Ballmer ended up making Microsoft irrelevant. Young IS people ask me what to learn and ever since I got my first look at Vista I have recommended "anything but Microsoft".

Comment: 2 cameras feed my photographic memory (Score 2) 248 248

I included the 2 squishy cameras capturing 3-D images on the front of my skull that feed inverted data into my optical connector where it is then passed to the "central processor". The central processor then inverts the data to a useful format and records it in my photographic memory. Replicating these cameras faithfully would cost billyuns and billyuns of dollar$.

Comment: Re:Philosophy... (Score 1) 630 630

I think you are right about the navel-gazing tendencies (bellybuttons, not warships). I'm working in the academic discipline of Management Information Systems and many academics don't quite know what to make of it. They ask, "Is it really the same as the discipline of Management? What is meant by Information?" While they go on mulling over these issues, our graduates get jobs as programmers, analysts, and consultants while the Management majors scratch for whatever jobs they can find. Computer skillz seem to be in demand while knowledge of management theories isn't so much. Buy hey, at least their discipline is completely respected in academic circles. I know we aren't as crazy smart as the demi-gods of Computer Science, but we seem to do okay in business without four semesters of calculus and assorted matrix algebra madness. Different strokes for different folks. Show some heart, give a philosopher a piece of pizza so he can spin out a few more dumb questions to people with work that needs to get done even if they aren't a million percent sure why they are doing it.

"Experience has proved that some people indeed know everything." -- Russell Baker