An even more portable e-scooter

This, the WalkCar, looks promising:

Promising because it is so very portable.

WalkCar is a small wheeled plate that is fitted with four wheels and an electric motor that takes the ship forward. It weighs only 2.9 kg and is about the size of a small 13-inch laptop PC, giving it the portability to fit in a bag. It is therefore very easily transportable anywhere. Besides, the vehicle height is just 74mm above the ground (about the width of a smartphone); its flat and square standing surface allows you to step off instantly in any direction safely.

This device is not at all cheap. $1,800. Which is much too much. But if this gadget catches on, as it surely might, that price will fall.

As with the regular e-scooter, the WalkCar will take a bit of getting used to, by other WalkCar users and by the rest of us. But, one to watch.

I have already speculated here that the end point of this story will be when shoes double up as transport. When not using these (I am, for now, calling them PowShoos), you can carry them on your feet! WalkCar has the look, to me, of a big stride in that direction.

As of now, this WalkCar is much slower that regular e-scooters, and has much less of a range. But again, those variables will surely improve. The lack of speed may even aid its acceptance by other road users, most especially pedestrians, who are already now tormented by lawless cyclists.

I’ll say it again. This is the big transport story now, not robot cars. Think of it as the motorisation and miniaturisation of Shanks’s Pony.

Japanese report says dictator is in a vegetative state

The vegitative state in question being North Korea.

Other inevitable headlines will will be variations on the theme of “Undead”.

FIRE UP THE MEME FACTORIES.

LATER: “Is he alive? Is he dead? For the moment, I’m calling him Schrodinger’s Dictator.” Ha.

Parshall and Tully (and Slim) on why Japan lost

I recently watched the 2019 movie about the Battle of Midway. Wanting to make a bit more sense of what I had just watched, I then purchased Shattered Sword: The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway by Jonathan Parshall and Anthony Tully. This seems to be a much respected volume, and now that I have started dipping into it, I find that, just as was promised, it is especially illuminating about the approach adopted by the Japanese side in this battle. Here is how the chapter entitled “Why Did Japan Lose?” ends (pp. 413-415):

British Field Marshal William Slim, who had been defeated in Burma by the Japanese in early 1942, but who would later return the favor by crushing them in the same theater in 1944, beautifully captured the spirit of his enemies in an excerpt written about the Japanese Army. He remarked:

The Japanese were ruthless and bold as ants while their designs went well, but if their plans were disturbed or thrown out – ant-like again – they fell into confusion, were slow to re-adjust themselves, and invariably clung too long to their original schemes. This, to commanders with their unquenchable military optimism, which rarely allowed in their narrow administrative margins for any setback or delay, was particularly dangerous. The fundamental fault of their generalship was a lack of moral, as distinct from physical, courage. They were not prepared to admit that they had made a mistake, that their plans had misfired and needed recasting. … Rather than confess that, they passed on to their subordinates, unchanged, the order that they themselves had received, well knowing that with the resources available the tasks demanded were impossible. Time and again, this blind passing of responsibility ran down a chain of disaster. … They scored highly by determination; they paid heavily for lack of flexibility.

This passage might just as easily have been written about Midway, as it perfectly encapsulates the problems the Japanese had when it came to altering their battle plans. In the matter of lack of moral courage, Yamamoto, Nagumo, and Yamaguchi were all quite clearly guilty as charged. Equally perceptive is Slim’s insight that sticking with a plan, even a bad plan, was a mechanism whereby the Japanese individual could personally absolve himself of responsibility for a defeat. Too often, though, the price for doing so was needless casualties, or even the outright destruction of one’s force, typically followed by the atoning suicide of the commander in question. All in all, this was not an effective model for winning a war against a numerically superior opponent.

By the same token, it is clear from many of the failures of learning and adaptation just discussed that the Japanese entered the Battle of Midway wearing doctrinal handcuffs, the effect of which was to retard still further their ability to innovate. Whereas American doctrine is generally presented to a commander as a codification of guidelines concerning the effective conduct of combat, the very nature of the Japanese military culture made its own doctrine far more rigid with regards to interpretation. This manifested itself in Nagumo and Genda’s disinclination to augment their tactical scouting assets with carrier strike assets, even in the face of accumulating evidence that the Americans were more alert than they ought to have been.

In the same way, the apparent unwillingness of First Air Fleet staff to even consider splitting the attacking power of Kido Butai after discovering the Americans later in the morning originated in doctrinal imperatives. Launching a quick attack against the Americans with CarDiv 2’s kanbaku before Tomonaga’s recovery, difficult though this would have been to implement, might have given the Japanese their best possibility to inflict more harm on their opponent than they actually managed. Yet, Japanese doctrine prescribed massed airpower as the correct answer to any tactical problem that arose, and Nagumo and his staff dogmatically stuck to that formula.

Likewise, Nagumo’s doctrinaire decision to close directly on the Americans had the effect of leaving his fleet positioned between two hostile forces (Midway and the American carriers). A decision to maneuver more freely, either to the north or northwest, could have mitigated some of the advantages that the Americans had accrued by virtue of the superior (and wholly intentional) initial positioning. Despite the Japanese love of indirect approaches at a strategic level, their love of closing directly to knife-fighting range at the tactical level was never better demonstrated than at Midway.

Some of these problems stemmed from the simple fact that in early 1942 the aircraft carrier was still a brand-new weapon system. As such, the body of doctrinal thinking in all the carrier navies was relatively small and still maturing. Other navies might have viewed an immature doctrine as being a tacit admission that some degree of interpretation by unit commanders would be required during the course of battle. The Japanese apparently did not see things this way – they stuck to the playbook, small as it might be. When improvisation was called for, they answered with the most expedient, and transparent tactic available-charging the enemy. Thus, in the critical matter of adaptation, the Japanese likewise failed abysmally.

Taken as a whole, the inescapable conclusion that emerges from a careful examination of the battle is the fact that the Japanese defeat was not the result of some solitary, crucial breakdown in Japanese designs. It was not the result of Victory Disease, nor of a few crucial personal mistakes. Rather, what appears is a complex, and comprehensive web of failures stretching across every level of the battle -strategic, operational, and tactical. Every aspect of the enterprise was tainted in some way. The surface manifestations of these deeper failures may ultimately have been a host of mistakes committed by individuals. And some of those mistakes were clearly more important that others. But the vast majority of them were in some way symptomatic of larger failures within the Japanese military and within the Navy’s cultural fabric, its doctrine, and its preferred modes of combat. They were the end products of an organization that failed to learn correctly from its past, failed to plan correctly for its future, and then failed to adapt correctly to circumstances once those plans were shown to be flawed.

Intriguingly, the seeds of many of these errors had been planted some forty years before, through the initial teachings of the Japanese Naval Staff College, and from the flower of Japan’s greatest victory – the Battle of Tsushima. They had lain unnoticed all that time, growing unchecked, waiting for the right time, place, and individuals to give them expression. Instead of culling these warped seedlings, the Japanese Navy had fostered their growth in the 1930s. The twin pressures of a violent nationalism, combined with the sure knowledge that they would be the underdog in any war with America, had conspired to skew Japan’s naval policies and doctrine still further during that time period. As a result, by the time the Pacific war began, and despite its undoubted tactical prowess, the Navy’s ability to mentally fight the war at a strategic and operational level was already fatally damaged. It was at Midway that the breadth of these shortcomings finally revealed themselves, with catastrophic results for both the Imperial Navy and the Japanese nation. Of course, in the larger context of the war, the Battle of Midway was just one of the first of a much greater harvest of bitter fruit that would fall from the poisoned tree of Japanese militarism.

The military defeats that began with the Battle of Midway stem from the harsh reality that, far from being the truly modern, progressive institution that it fondly imagined itself to be, the Imperial Navy was in fact possessed of the most parochial of outlooks. Instead of the quick, limited war Japan’s military leadership envisioned, the Pacific war soon revealed itself to be all encompassing and all consuming. In a shockingly short time, America had begun waging war against Japan across every strategic dimension available to a great industrial power – military, political, economic, and scientific. Japan was assaulted on the ground, through the air, and on and under the sea. Ultimately, it was beaten decisively in every one of these arenas. In this sense, Midway was merely symptomatic of the Imperial military’s larger failings. Most obvious was their fatally misguided decision to launch a war of aggression against the most powerful nation on earth. Having done so, moreover, they found themselves engaged in a conflict whose scope and complexity forced its participants to evolve at a frenetic pace. As it developed, for the Japanese this was a particularly daunting challenge. Despite the amazing speed with which they had modernized their fighting forces after 1848, they were still bound by thought patterns linked to an earlier military and cultural era, as well as the warped legacy of Tsushima. In the final analysis, it is no exaggeration to say that the conflict the Japanese military instigated in 1941 was not only beyond its resources, but also beyond its understanding.

Once again not mentioning The Wires!!! – this time in Kyoto

I think this must be the first The Wires!!! posting at BMNB, but there were several at BMOB. What these postings celebrate is photography that itself celebrates new architecture, typically Japanese, which is full of The Wires!!!, but which never mentions The Wires!!!

Here are some classic photos in this genre, which I first encountered in this report, celebrating a modernistical new house in Kyoto:

I tried copying the top one of these three photos from where I had first seen it, but that didn’t work. Instead I tried copying it from here. That worked, sort of, because I found I’d copied all three of the above photos, in one big old .jpg file.

But since these all three photos feature The Wires!!!, and since, once again, these The Wires!!! were never discussed in the text, I am content to just shove up all three, in one big old .jpg file.

One day, some Japanese architect is going to design a building which includes The Wires!!! itself, as a decorative feature.

I predict that as soon as The Wires!!! start getting buried, The Wires!!! will start to be missed, and will become a relentless topic of architectural analysis. In other words the opposite of what they are now.

Displacement

So much for logic. More World Cup torture, for England anyway. By the end, it wasn’t even close.

Looking back on it, it seems to me that what England did in this tournament was what France have done more than once in the past. England amazed everyone by beating the All Blacks and thus cleared the way for someone else to win it. Too bad it wasn’t England. I trust South Africans are suitably grateful.

I funked it again, in the sense that I watched it, but couldn’t bear to listen to what the commentators were saying. But on the plus side: my bowels were emptied more thoroughly and rather earlier than usual; I managed to set the date on a newly acquired camera; some washing up got done; various other displacement activities were accomplished, including reading early bits of this rather good book about Shakespeare; I listened more carefully than usual to parts of Record Review, which is still going now (a suitably agonised Shostakovitch string quartet). I mention such personal trivia because this is my blog, but more to the point because I have nothing to add to the rugby expertise that rugby experts will now be lavishing on this event. In a year’s time the only person reading this posting will be me, maybe.

From the look of it, England made too many mistakes, and South Africa just played better.

World Cup torture

Well, I didn’t watch England slowly torturing the All Blacks to death yesterday, because I could not bear the thought of watching what I was sure would happen, viz: the All Blacks slowly torturing England to death. I merely recorded it all, in the unlikely event that England won and I would then want to see it all. While England were, in fact, winning, I had a Sunaturday morning lie-in.

The thing is, England are pretty good this time around, and watching all the hope being squeezed out of them, and experiencing all the hope being squeezed out of me, was more than I could have endured. I just wanted one nice, humane bullet to the head, with no messing about.

The thing also (see above) is, England never beat the All Blacks at the World Cup. Never. It just doesn’t happen. They always lose to them. Not necessarily by much, but by enough, every time. The French, yes, they beat the All Blacks at the World Cup, every other decade. But England? Never. As Shakespeare would have put it had he been a rugby fan: Never never never never never. So, why was this game going to be any different?

Now, my problem is that I, along with millions of other real rugby fans (such as I clearly am not) by no means all of whom are even English, now think that England are favourites to beat South Africa. South Africa only just beat Wales this morning, and Wales only really really care about beating England. England beat South Africa at the World Cup quite often, just as South Africa beat England at the World Cup quite often. More to the point, England have now beaten the All Blacks at this World Cup, and the All Blacks beat South Africa at this World Cup in the group stage. So, logic says that England will accordingly beat South Africa. So I probably will watch the final. At which point all those South African backs will go crazy and beat England by twenty points. Deep down, however, I only say that to stop it happening. What I really think is that England will win, and very possibly by quite a lot.

It really would be something if England could dump the three senior Southern Hemisphere teams out of this thing, bang bang bang, one after another. Trouble is, this has not happened yet, and with sport, you never know. Sport is not, to put it mildly, always logical.

I mean, I imagine all those All Black fans got the shock of their lives, as it gradually dawned on them that England were, yesterday, better than them, and were going to beat them, at the World Cup. For the first time. Ever. Ever ever ever ever ever. They should have stayed in bed or gone to bed early, or whatever they would have needed to do in their time zone, to spare themselves the grief.

Stephen Fry once quoted Vincent Price saying: exquisite agony. That about sums up what I’m trying to say in this.

Hello Kitty Bullet Train

I kid you not:

West Japan Railway Co. said Friday it will begin operating a Hello Kitty-themed shinkansen on June 30.

The interior and seats of the 500-series shinkansen, to be used for daily round trips between Shin-Osaka Station in Osaka Prefecture and Hakata in Fukuoka Prefecture, will feature Sanrio Co.’s Hello Kitty character, the railway operator said.

The special train, to be decorated with pink ribbons like the character, will be used to promote local attractions and specialty goods, and passengers will have the chance to pose for photos with a big Hello Kitty doll.

I can’t shake the feeling that I’ve been had by Japan’s answer to the Daily Mash, or that all this was first announced on April 1st. Nevertheless, it does seem to be a real thing.

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog

Magnificent The Wires! sculpture gets noticed because of a concrete temple next to it

Yes, a truly wonderful The Wires! sculpture gets long overdue recognition from Dezeen, on account of a lump of religious concrete being put next to it, by an architect.

The photographer clearly loves The Wires!:

But Dezeen’s writers are under strict orders.

It doesn’t matter how beautiful and intricate The Wires! are:

The rule is set in concrete.

Don’t mention The Wires!

Originally posted at Brian Micklethwait’s Old Blog