The Nomad Tribes of Africa

Saturday, April 19th, 2014

Photographer Harry Hook grew up in Kenya and has been documenting the nomad tribes of Africa for decades:

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Serenity Prayer

Sunday, January 19th, 2014

The wisdom of the Serenity Prayer may be timeless, but the prayer itself is rather new:

The best-known form is:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

Though clearly circulating in oral form earlier, the earliest established date for a written form of the prayer is Niebuhr’s inclusion of it in a sermon in 1943, followed closely by its inclusion in a Federal Council of Churches (FCC) book for army chaplains and servicemen in 1944. Niebuhr himself did not publish the Serenity Prayer until 1951, in one of his magazine columns, although it had previously appeared under his name.

The prayer is cited both by Niebuhr and by Niebuhr’s daughter, Elisabeth Sifton. Sifton thought that he had first written it in 1943, although Niebuhr’s wife wrote in an unpublished memorandum that it had been written in 1941 or ’42, adding that it may have been used in prayers as early as 1934. Niebuhr himself was quoted in the January 1950 Grapevine as saying the prayer “may have been spooking around for years, even centuries, but I don’t think so. I honestly do believe that I wrote it myself.”

In his book Niebuhr recalls that his prayer was circulated by the FCC and later by the United States armed forces. Niebuhr’s versions of the prayer were always printed as a single prose sentence; printings that set out the prayer as three lines of verse modify the author’s original version.

The original, attributed to Niebuhr, is:

God, give me grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.
Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.
Amen.

An approximate version (apparently quoted from memory) appears in the “Queries and Answers” column in The New York Times Book Review, July 2, 1950, p. 23, which asks for the author of the quotation; and a reply in the same column in the issue for August 13, 1950, p. 19, where the quotation is attributed to Niebuhr and an unidentified printed text is quoted as follows:

O God and Heavenly Father,
Grant to us the serenity of mind to accept that which cannot be changed; courage to change that which can be changed, and wisdom to know the one from the other, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

The prayer became more widely known after being brought to the attention of Alcoholics Anonymous in 1941 by an early member.

The prayer has many precursors:

Epictetus wrote: “Make the best use of what is in your power, and take the rest as it happens. Some things are up to us [eph' hêmin] and some things are not up to us. Our opinions are up to us, and our impulses, desires, aversions — in short, whatever is our own doing. Our bodies are not up to us, nor are our possessions, our reputations, or our public offices, or, that is, whatever is not our own doing.”

The 8th-century Indian Buddhist scholar Shantideva of Nalanda University expressed a similar sentiment:

If there’s a remedy when trouble strikes,
What reason is there for dejection?
And if there is no help for it,
What use is there in being glum?

The 11th century Jewish philosopher Solomon ibn Gabirol wrote “And they said: At the head of all understanding — is realizing what is and what cannot be, and the consoling of what is not in our power to change.”

The philosopher W.W. Bartley juxtaposes without comment Niebuhr’s prayer with a Mother Goose rhyme (1695) expressing a similar sentiment:

For every ailment under the sun
There is a remedy, or there is none;
If there be one, try to find it;
If there be none, never mind it.

Friedrich Schiller advocated the first part in 1801:

„Wohl dem Menschen, wenn er gelernt hat, zu ertragen, was er nicht ändern kann, und preiszugeben mit Würde, was er nicht retten kann,” or “Blessed is he, who has learned to bear what he cannot change, and to give up with dignity, what he cannot save.”

The prayer has been variously but incorrectly attributed to, among others, Thomas Aquinas, Cicero, Augustine, Boethius, Marcus Aurelius, Francis of Assisi, Thomas More, and Friedrich Christoph Oetinger (1702–1782).

Popular Posts of 2013

Wednesday, January 1st, 2014

I just took a look back at my numbers for 2013. Here are the most popular posts during that calendar year, half of which are new, half of which are evergreen:

  1. Why do so many terrorists have engineering degrees?
  2. Words from a Bosnian Survivalist (new)
  3. Robert Conquest’s Three Laws of Politics
  4. Thermal Runaway
  5. No Longer Unthinkable (new)
  6. He-Man Opening Monologue
  7. Foux Da Fa Fa
  8. The Nazis a Warning from History (new)
  9. Richard Feynman’s Low IQ (new, but not from 2013!)
  10. Longbow vs. Armor (new, but not from 2013!)

Here are the most popular posts actually from 2013 and not from an earlier year:

  1. Words from a Bosnian Survivalist
  2. No Longer Unthinkable
  3. The Nazis a Warning from History
  4. Making Mordor’s Economy Work
  5. All Too Humane
  6. Comparing Vickies with Thetes
  7. Most Americans Against Race-Based College Admissions
  8. Reading Old Books
  9. Situational Awareness and Good Sense
  10. Fukushima’s Incredible Death Toll

Again, I’m not sure what to conclude.

Tailoring Is the Secret of the Well-Dressed

Monday, December 23rd, 2013

Spending $40 to tailor $79 pants feels wasteful:

The result: American closets are brimming with ill-fitting clothes.

Tailoring is the Secret of the Well-Dressed

Solzhenitsyn Spots the Cathedral

Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

Soviet dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was invited to give Harvard University’s 1978 commencement address, which he entitled “A World Split Apart”. In it, Solzhenitsyn spots Moldbug’s “Cathedral”:

Such as it is, however, the press has become the greatest power within Western countries, exceeding that of the legislature, the executive, and the judiciary. Yet one would like to ask: According to what law has it been elected and to whom is it responsible? In the Communist East, a journalist is frankly appointed as a state official. But who has voted Western journalists into their positions of power, for how long a time, and with what prerogatives?

There is yet another surprise for someone coming from the totalitarian East with its rigorously unified press: One discovers a common trend of preferences within the Western press as a whole (the spirit of the time), generally accepted patterns of judgment, and maybe common corporate interests, the sum effect being not competition but unification. Unrestrained freedom exists for the press, but not for readership, because newspapers mostly transmit in a forceful and emphatic way those opinions which do not too openly contradict their own and that general trend.

Without any censorship in the West, fashionable trends of thought and ideas are fastidiously separated from those that are not fashionable, and the latter, without ever being forbidden have little chance of finding their way into periodicals or books or being heard in colleges. Your scholars are free in the legal sense, but they are hemmed in by the idols of the prevailing fad. There is no open violence, as in the East; however, a selection dictated by fashion and the need to accommodate mass standards frequently prevents the most independent-minded persons from contributing to public life and gives rise to dangerous herd instincts that block dangerous herd development.

In America, I have received letters from highly intelligent persons — maybe a teacher in a faraway small college who could do much for the renewal and salvation of his country, but the country cannot hear him because the media will not provide him with a forum. This gives birth to strong mass prejudices, to a blindness which is perilous in our dynamic era. An example is the self-deluding interpretation of the state of affairs in the contemporary world that functions as a sort of petrified armor around people’s minds, to such a degree that human voices from seventeen countries of Eastern Europe and Eastern Asia cannot pierce it. It will be broken only by the inexorable crowbar of events.

As Nick B. Steves notes, Solzhenitsyn spoke a little too plainly.

Once-Majestic Cities That Sank Beneath The Ocean

Saturday, October 12th, 2013

Know, O prince, that between the years when the oceans drank Atlantis and the gleaming cities, and the years of the rise of the sons of Aryas, there was an Age undreamed of, when shining kingdoms lay spread across the world like blue mantles beneath the stars… Hither came Conan, the Cimmerian, black-haired, sullen-eyed, sword in hand, a thief, a reaver, a slayer, with gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth, to tread the jeweled thrones of the Earth under his sandaled feet.
The Nemedian Chronicles

That’s what comes to mind as I behold these once-majestic cities that sank beneath the ocean:

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Once-Majestic Cities That Sank Beneath The Ocean 15

Once-Majestic Cities That Sank Beneath The Ocean 16

Once-Majestic Cities That Sank Beneath The Ocean 17

Once-Majestic Cities That Sank Beneath The Ocean 18

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“Look upon my works, ye mighty, and despair.”

Those last few remind me of a different Weird Tales regular.

Anyway, those are just some of the images. Check them all out.

Maria Sharapova’s Video Analysis

Thursday, June 27th, 2013

In the last few months, Maria Sharapova has hired a video-analysis expert to help her beat Serena Williams:

O’Shannessy’s videos show patterns that work — and fail — against Williams. He calls the open court “an illusion,” because Williams excels at being aggressive while moving to the open court. The solution: Hit behind Williams as often as possible, forcing her to move in one direction, reset her feet, and then go back in the other direction.

Opponents look to attack Williams’s forehand crosscourt, since that’s where she makes most of her errors. Still, Sharapova too often takes risks down the line, O’Shannessy said, especially from defensive positions. And she hits too many backhands from the middle of the court, when she has time to sidestep and hit forehands.

This isn’t the first time Sharapova has relied on video. At the 2006 U.S. Open, she went into the final against Justine Henin having lost their last four matches, including their semifinal at that year’s Australian Open. Joyce’s father, a former photography director for television shows such as “Little House on the Prairie” and “CHiPs,” scoured Henin video to suggest tactics for Sharapova.

“Henin had extreme grips,” Joyce said. “My dad said, ‘If Maria can hit down the middle and make her switch grips as often as possible, she’ll get more errors.’” Sharapova won, 6-4, 6-4.

D-Day

Thursday, June 6th, 2013

Just before the greatest amphibious landing in history, General Eisenhower addressed his men:

Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force! You are about to embark upon a great crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers in arms on other fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.

Soldiers, Sailors, and Airmen. The greatest amphibious landing in history involved no Marines.

Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped and battle hardened, he will fight savagely.

But this is the year 1944! Much has happened since the Nazi triumphs of 1940-41. The United Nations have inflicted upon the Germans great defeats, in open battle, man to man. Our air offensive has seriously reduced their strength in the air and their capacity to wage war on the ground. Our home fronts have given us an overwhelming superiority in weapons and munitions of war, and placed at our disposal great reserves of trained fighting men. The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching together to victory!

FDR originally coined the term United Nations for what we now call the Allies.

I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full victory!

Good Luck! And let us all beseech the blessings of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.

Patton’s speech to the Third Army is more colorful:

Men, this stuff that some sources sling around about America wanting out of this war, not wanting to fight, is a crock of bullshit. Americans love to fight, traditionally. All real Americans love the sting and clash of battle…Americans play to win all of the time. I wouldn’t give a hoot in hell for a man who lost and laughed. That’s why Americans have never lost nor will ever lose a war; for the very idea of losing is hateful to an American.

…There are four hundred neatly marked graves somewhere in Sicily. All because one man went to sleep on the job. But they are German graves, because we caught the bastard asleep before they did.

…My men don’t dig foxholes. I don’t want them to. Foxholes only slow up an offensive. Keep moving. And don’t give the enemy time to dig one either. We’ll win this war, but we’ll win it only by fighting and by showing the Germans that we’ve got more guts than they have; or ever will have. We’re not going to just shoot the sons-of-bitches, we’re going to rip out their living Goddamned guts and use them to grease the treads of our tanks.

…I don’t want to get any messages saying, ‘I am holding my position.’ We are not holding a Goddamned thing. Let the Germans do that. We are advancing constantly and we are not interested in holding onto anything, except the enemy’s balls. We are going to twist his balls and kick the living shit out of him all of the time. Our basic plan of operation is to advance and to keep on advancing regardless of whether we have to go over, under, or through the enemy. We are going to go through him like crap through a goose….

…From time to time there will be some complaints that we are pushing our people too hard. I don’t give a good Goddamn about such complaints. I believe in the old and sound rule that an ounce of sweat will save a gallon of blood. The harder WE push, the more Germans we will kill. The more Germans we kill, the fewer of our men will be killed. Pushing means fewer casualties. I want you all to remember that.

(I thought this deserved to be reposted today. Tide predictions were surprising important to the invasion, by the way, even if the invasion itself wasn’t as important as Americans, Canadians, and Brits like to think.)

Everybody Loves the Assassins

Friday, May 24th, 2013

Tim Cahill travels the Iranian countryside, hiking up to the ruins of the Assassins’ castles:

So we walked up the sloping back side, among sagelike flowering bushes watered by the snowmelt from a few late drifts. Snow-crested mountains soared all about and the sun reflected off the glaciers like so many mirrors. We summited, then found a way down on the east side of the face, skiing in our boots through steeply sloping scree fields that led eventually into decorative and absurdly ornate fields of wildflowers. There were yellow buttercups and purple and white flowers I couldn’t identify, interspersed in various swirling patterns. I saw there the elements of complex design so appealing in Persian rugs or in the tile work of various mosques.

It was still several miles across a vast marshy meadow to camp, and when we dropped over the lip of an undulating swale, six or seven huge shaggy dogs, each weighing in excess of 100 pounds, surrounded us. There were a lot of teeth in evidence, and perhaps a thousand sheep and goats grazing nearby. A shepherd shouted a command and the dogs dispersed, grumbling among themselves. Many of them, I noticed now, were pretty banged-up. They walked with an assortment of limps.

The dogs were a kind of sag gorg, a wolf dog, and some wore thick leather collars with metal studs on them, because wolves always go for the neck in a fight.

“How many times a year do they fight the wolves?” I asked.

“Five or six times a night,” the shepherd said. It seemed an implausible number to me, but then again, it did explain why half the dogs were limping.

Later we watched seven shepherds milk their animals, all in a chaos of dust and finely organized confusion. Shahram translated a few questions back and forth. Later, on the way back to camp, Shahram said, “You are the first Americans they have ever seen. They wanted to know how relations were between our countries.”

“What did you tell them?”

“Could be better. I said that you guys came to meet the people and see the culture here. I said that was good, because the image Americans have of Iran is all desert and camels and terrorists. I said what you were doing would help ignorant people.” We walked on a bit. “Of course I was bullshitting.”

“Actually,” I said, “you weren’t.”

His main lesson learned: Iranians throw trash everywhere — which is the same lesson you learn in India, etc.

When Real Men Wore High Heels

Thursday, April 25th, 2013

Kinky BootsHigh-heel, over-the-knee boots may be coming back into fashion, but they’re seen as awfully flamboyant on a man. Three hundred years ago it would have been scandalous for a woman to be seen wearing them. Peter Turchin looks back at when real men wore high heels:

The starting point of this evolution was the invention the stirrup, probably by the Mongolian nomadic people called Xianbei around 300 AD. This was such a useful invention that by the sixth century it spread through all of Eurasia, from Japan to Europe. By providing the rider with unprecedented stability, the stirrup made heavy cavalry (actually, any kind of cavalry) much more effective. Some historians even argued that the stirrup gave rise to feudalism in medieval Europe, and something very similar in Japan (take this with a grain of salt).

Catherine the Great in Preobrazhenskii Uniform

The problem with the stirrup is that when you fall off the horse (and if you ride horses a lot, especially under the chaotic conditions of war, you will inevitably do so once in a while), there is a danger of your foot being caught in the stirrup. Countless riders have been dragged to their deaths by panicking horses.

And here is where a properly designed stirrup/boot combination comes in. An iron stirrup with large enough opening for the boot allows you to kick it off as you fall. A high heel, on the other hand, gives you the stability by preventing the foot from slipping through the stirrup. It helps to have a very slick, slippery sole for ease of foot extraction in case of mishap.

Four Musketeers

High heels and slippery soles make for rather uncomfortable walking (I would not recommend wearing true cowboy boots in New England’s winter!). But for riding it’s just right.

Cowboy Boots

In the early-modern Europe high-heeled footwear also served an important function of distinguishing the nobility from the peasants. Then came the Age of Revolutions (from the French Revolution of 1789 to the Paris Commune of 1870), which introduced a new era that stressed equality and blurred class lines. At the same time, the horses gradually lost their function as the means of land transport, being replaced by railroads and the automobile. And so high heels lost their functionality, and became just a fashion fad. Or nostalgia.

Lions sign “Kickalicious” Havard Rugland

Friday, April 12th, 2013

Havard “Kickalicious” Rugland has in fact been signed by the Detroit Lions — to compete against NFL veteran David Akers to replace retiring kicker Jason Hanson.

If You Want to Stop Gun Violence, Start With Bullets

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

Wired‘s Danger Room has published an embarrassingly bad infographic and accompanying article in which Joanna Pearlstein tries to argue that if you want to stop gun violence, you need to start with bullets:

Guns don’t kill people; people don’t kill people; bullets kill people. As the nation debates, again, the best way to curb gun violence, many of the questions focus on the firearms themselves. But an equally important consideration is ammunition. Roughly 10 billion rounds are manufactured in the US each year, with a weight equal to two Titanics. More to the point, it’s enough bullets to pump 32 rounds into every man, woman, and child in America.

Actually, people do kill people, all the time, often without guns or bullets. When they do use guns to shoot bullets, it only takes a few rounds to commit a massacre. Bullets are not the bottleneck there.

On the other hand, it takes thousands of rounds to become a competent shooter. In fact, competitive shooters can go through tens of thousands of rounds per year. Competitive shooters kill no one.

If You Want to Stop Gun Violence, Start With Bullets

Popular Posts of 2012

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

I just took a look back at my numbers for 2012. Here are the most popular posts during that calendar year:

  1. Rich Black Flunking
  2. Foux Da Fa Fa
  3. Archetypal Stories
  4. Why do so many terrorists have engineering degrees?
  5. Thermal Runaway
  6. CCI Quiet 22
  7. Lessons from a Fatal Shootout in a Crowded McDonalds
  8. Write Your Name in Elvish in Ten Minutes
  9. He-Man Opening Monologue
  10. Robert Conquest’s Three Laws of Politics

Here are the most popular posts actually from 2012 and not from an earlier year:

  1. CCI Quiet 22
  2. Lessons from a Fatal Shootout in a Crowded McDonalds
  3. Americas Retreat from Victory
  4. Our Totalitarian Democracy
  5. Democracies and Collateral Damage
  6. The Steampunk Era
  7. Fahrenheit 451 Misinterpreted
  8. Richard Feynman’s Low IQ
  9. Running for Combat Effectiveness
  10. Rapid Reticle

I’m not sure what to conclude.

Radical planes take shape

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

Airliners have not changed much outwardly in 60 years, but that may soon change:

Earlier improvements went mostly unnoticed because they focused on building better and quieter turbine engines with higher performance and improved fuel consumption. There have also been huge strides in computer controls and fly-by-wire systems, which make a big difference to the pilot, but not to the passengers. And in recent years, the biggest development has been the use of strong, but lightweight plastics and composite materials rather than metals, reducing the weight of planes and the amount of fuel they need to burn. This has also allowed the development of “radical” new planes like the giant Airbus A380 and the Boeing Dreamliner.

[...]

A team from MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts, for example, put forward the D8 for consideration by Nasa. This “double-bubble” aircraft design, features a double-wide fuselage composed of two standard body cylinders melded together side-by-side, as well as low-swept wings that cut drag and weight. The idea of the wider body shape is to increase lift generated by the fuselage, rather than it being mostly dead weight slung between two wings. The extra lift and reduced drag cuts back on the quantity of fuel that the engines must burn. If the jet were built today from standard aluminum alloys it could provide a 50% reduction in fuel use, according to the MIT designers; a low-mass polymer-composite version could give 70% efficiency gains. In addition, because the D8’s turbine engines sit on top of the fuselage in a box-shaped tail, they would cut the amount of engine noise broadcast to the ground.

The D8’s idea for generating greater lift is taken to an extreme in another design called the N3-X hybrid wing-body airplane, which Nasa developed in-house. At first glance, the N3-X looks a lot like a so-called flying wing design, used by planes such as the US Air Force’s B-2 stealth bomber. These comprise a single, thick triangular wing that enclose all of the plane’s contents – cockpit, stores, engines, fuel tanks and flight surfaces. But, unlike the B-2 flying wing, the N3-X hybrid wing-body also features two thin, rather conventional wings attached to the sides of its ultra-wide fuselage.

The primary advantage of the hybrid, or blended, wing-body design is better fuel efficiency, Del Rosario says. Like a flying wing, the hybrid aircraft produces lift with its entire aerodynamic airframe, thus ridding itself of the drag associated with the cylindrical fuselage and the tail surfaces of a conventional plane. As with the D8, the more lift that can be produced overall, the less effort is needed from the engines, which in turn means less fuel must be burned. Fuel efficiency could be raised further by building the airframe from lightweight polymer composite materials instead of metals, Del Rosario says.

[...]

Nasa’s N3-X is also designed around a completely new engine concept, called turboelectric distributed propulsion. It splits the main functions of a standard turbine engine in two — generating power by burning fuel and creating thrust by blowing air rearward with a large fan.

The idea is to use two large turbine engines to drive electric generators that would produce electricity to power 15 electric motor-driven, thrust-producing fans that would be embedded across the top rear of the broad fuselage. Such a configuration could be very efficient, Del Rosario says. The array of small electric propulsion fans at the stern of N3-X enables the designers to cut drag significantly by accelerating the flow of drag-causing air moving over the upper surface of the fuselage, keeping efficiency-sapping air friction at a minimum. Like the D8, the top-mounted propulsor fans would also effectively lower noise emissions because the body would come between them and the ground below.

(Hat tip to Jonathan Jeckell.)

The NFL Moves Back Into the Dorms

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

Former Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin made his NFL debut with the Washington Redskins Sunday, but he continued to lead a college-style offense:

Last season, the Redskins ran out of the shotgun 33% of the time — just shy of the 41% average for all NFL teams. On Sunday, however, they ran it on 20 of the first 23 offensive snaps, something you hardly ever see outside college campuses.

On just the third snap, one play after running a shotgun option, Shanahan’s Baylorskins ran the pistol. This formation, in which Griffin started from the shotgun with the running back lined up behind him, was a clear case of pandering to Griffin’s skills. Montgomery noted that this exact play was “worked hard” early in Griffin’s college career. After taking the snap, Griffin faked a handoff then threw a quick dart pass to receiver Pierre Garcon who was split wide, for a 12-yard gain.

At the start of the second quarter, Griffin lined up in shotgun with a running back to his right again—but with another one directly behind him (see photo). This time, after faking the handoff to running back Alfred Morris, Griffin rolled out to his left, eluded the rushing defensive line and threw the ball across the field for a 26-yard strike to tight end Fred Davis.

Griffin’s statistics from Sunday don’t look like NFL statistics: According to researchers at Pro Football Focus, Griffin threw 13 of his 25 passes within nine yards of the line of scrimmage and threw more than 20 yards on just two plays. In the same game, Saints quarterback Drew Brees, a more-traditional NFL pocket passer, threw 11 passes longer than 20 yards.

After the game, Redskins players and coaches spoke about how important it was that the Saints didn’t know what was coming. Asked about this, Saints interim coach Aaron Kromer said his team wasn’t surprised to see Griffin running bootlegs, quarterback runs and “read options,” they just couldn’t stop them.

The big question for the copycat NFL is whether Griffin’s success will trigger a Pavlovian response among other coaches.