Jokes about a broken blog

Not mine, thank goodness. 6k’s. A few hours ago, 6k told the tale of his broken blog, in the form of a blog posting which he had to put instead, at first, on Facebook.

I LOLled at this bit:

I’m optimistic that the engineers at Afrihost will get their act together in the very near future and put the server plug back into the wall after the cleaning lady socially distanced it from its socket, …

Ah yes, the eternal and never-ending war between cleaning ladies and us computer users. That surely speaks, in the language of Lockdown, to all of us.

I did not LOL at this next bit. I merely smiled. Even though I now think it funnier. This is how 6k summarised his tale, having successfully copied it to his actual blog:

So now you’ve read a blog post about a blog post about not being able to post a blog post on the blog I wasn’t able to post on.

Blogging is, or can be, sometimes, a lot like stand-up comedy. Bloggers are mostly seated throughout, but the same principles do often apply, of a stressful life told of amusingly, and often at quite some length while you wait for the joke but are in the meantime at least diverted, and then there are jokes like those above, finding new ways to say eternally true things. At which you often LOL, but often are happy enough just to smile at.

A Twitter dump

For several months now, as alluded to tangentially already today, I have a ever heightening heap of, in particular, tweets piling up in my computer, which I have in mind to say clever things about, and which I do not in the meantime want to completely forget about. Pocket is great for articles with big headings at the top, but less good for tweets. So, here is a twitter dump, several of which are now way out of date, but still fun to remember.

This has made some impression on the pile. Not much, but some. So, in no particular order …:

Horrific find in local cafe. Destruction of great literature to create a bookish aesthetic. Shameful. Wasteful.

When God tries to punish your city for homosexuality but gays use their magic shield to protect it.

Two Concordes landing simultaneously.

I was glad to help you get home safely.

… you can be anything you want to be. You absolutely can not.

Inequality is the idea you can never be happy with a million dollars if the guy next door has a billion.

When I said Boris should get the unpopular stuff out of the way straight after the election, I meant unpopular with other people, not me.

“The United Kingdom is the last major European country where it is illegal to use e-scooters on public roads, bike paths, and pavements. This is despite surveys and usage indicating they are overwhelmingly popular where they are legal.” Time to fix that.

I see the potential for a whole new and compelling theory of modern political trends: ‘where does the bonkersness go?’ It could be called The Bonkers Dynamic, or Bonkerology.

Why did the Pilgrim Fathers leave for the New World? … They sailed because they felt themselves in a story.

Brexit Day +4: The grounded planes, the chaos in the streets, the unpaid workers, the crippling strikes, the faltering economy, the upper class buffoon in charge, the petrol bombs, the riot police, the snipers on rooftops, the tanks on the streets. But enough about France

I will not stand for baseless attacks and slander, unless they are directed at people I personally dislike.

A little excess fear is exactly what evolutionary principles would predict. The cost of us getting killed even once is higher than the cost of responding to a hundred false alarms.

However the #CoronavirusOutbreak plays out, pundits and commentators will craft a clean story for why whatever ends up happening was obvious all along.

From Dawah to damage control – All the workshops that used to be around trying to convert non-Muslims to Islam, are now trying to keep Muslims from leaving Islam and doubting religion.

When a team loses it looks unpopular, out of touch, and hence more likely to lose in future. It is the very act of winning that changes other people’s minds because they don’t want to be on the unpopular team, and winning shows that what you’re offering is what’s popular.

“I wish you bad luck …”

I don’t know which of the people I follow on Twitter drew my attention to the tweet that contained the quote that follows, a tweet which has been hanging around on my hard drive ever since I encountered it, but whoever it was, thank you.

There’s probably some computer trickery by means of which I could have straightened this out, but regulars here know that computer trickery is not a great strength of mine, and in any case, here at BMNB you get what you pay for. So, here is the quote, curves and all:

The tweeter who tweeted this, Daniel Negreanu, tells us that this is an excerpt from a commencement speech to a graduating middle school class, given at some time or other, somewhere in America, by someone called John Roberts. There is a bit of discussion below about who this particular John Roberts might be (anyone?), but basically, this is the only thing I have heard by or about him. This quote was in its turn quoted in The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure, by Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff. That being where the curvy graphics came from. A photo presumably.

This is the kind of thing I used to put on my now long defunct Education Blog. Maybe I should start doing more of this kind of thing.

I especially like what he said about luck.

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.

Scott Adams asks …

His question, and his answer:

If invading space aliens shut down the economy of Earth and forced us to become breeding slaves for our conquerors, how many deaths would humanity be willing to risk to regain its freedom? If your guess is fewer than a billion, it sounds low to me.

Cheer up mate, it may never happen.

My favourite Coronavirus tweet so far

Robert Colvile:

One of the few positives of this godawful epidemic – at least they might cancel The Hundred.

Read my opinions about this deranged contrivance here.

I guess the idea is that it’s existing cricket fans who put off all those new cricket fans just bursting to attend cricket games, if only those other fans would disappear. So, devise a cricket competition so stupid that all existing cricket fans are disgusted and don’t show up. Will all the kool kids then turn up in their droves? Or, will nobody care? I believe: the latter.

BMNBQotD

Emily Yoffe:

After 25 years of marriage, my husband and I are getting to know each other with a depth that is best avoided.

The comments vary, from the laughter of recognition to the usual Twitter denunciation of strangers on the basis of wildly insufficient evidence. Was she just joking? Very possibly. Lots of fine marriages seem to work all the better for them not spending all day together.

I’m okay. My new tabletop freezer just arrived this morning. Soon, I will start getting to know it in depth.

Farce repeating itself as farce

This is rather good:

Seriously, I remember back at Essex University in the early 1970s how the Lenin-with-hair tendency thought that the answer to every problem in the world then was to occupy something, fill it with rubbish and then bugger off and plan their next stupid occupation. They were tossers then, and they, their children and their grandchildren are tossers now. Farce repeating itself as farce.

It’s no surprise that I think it good, because I wrote it and posted it on Samizdata, in October 2011, in connection with the Occupy Movement. This was long enough ago for me to have completely forgotten having posted it. But I thought it good at the time, or I’d not have posted it. Everyone thinks what they post is good, or they should. I mean, if you don’t think that what you have just posted is good, why the hell did you post it?

I came across this when trying to find out how many mentions I have made on Samizdata about my time at Essex University, and in particular if I had ever told the story of how the student politicians wanted to give us Drama Society geeks a small grant, so that they could then take a large amount of credit for everything we had been doing. It seems that this story is yet to be told. I hope to tell it soon, but promise nothing. Short summary: we refused the grant.

Visiting the places that will hold up the map

6k says that this is very good:

I want to hang a map of the world in my house. Then I’m gonna put pins into all the locations I’ve traveled to, but first I’m gonna have to travel to the top two corners of the map so it won’t fall down.

Apart from how travelled is spelt, I agree.

But now I’m not sure I do. I thought this was a real circumstance. It turns out that the bloke who said this is a comedian. He merely says things like this, for a living. He’s not actually going to go to these two places. He didn’t mean it. He was only joking. That, I think, makes it less funny.