Monday, April 30

'Pyramids as old as the ones in Egypt found in Peru. Actually, they're more like ziggurats of ancient Mesopotamia but hell anyway they're just as old as their Middle Eastern counterparts. Here's a bit more on the Americas' oldest city.' via John lagado Hardy on MetaFilter
The Recording Industry Association of America sucks in so many ways. They stick it to the artists. They fight Napster. Then they threaten to sue a guy who breaks their encryption. Then they say they didn't. Not cool.
The amazing Captain Den Beste typed an amazing response to John's question. I'm posting it here in full because it's so great. Really, Steven ought to put it on his site.


Please excuse my instinct to think of all of you as my fellow Americans, as I lapse into "we" when it probably should be "the US"

My main question being, What was Japan's motivation from bringing the US into W.W.II? I know a couple of factoids, and have a few theories but I cannot remember ever going very far into the Pacific war in school. It always seemed to be enough to say the US was in the war because the Japanese attacked. No one ever went into why they might have done so.

1. I know American pilots were flying American planes painted with Chinese colors, so we were already fighting a secret war against Japan.

2. I am suspecting it might have something to do with the forced opening of Japanese ports those many years before, but I don't know.

3. Did it have anything to do with Japan's becoming industrialized, but not having much in the way of raw materials? Did the US impede this in anyway, were we competing for colonies?

4. Were the Japanese just keeping a bargain with their allies to keep the US from being too helpful to Europe?

5. If that is the case, (Here is where the change up kicks in) Why did Hitler leap at the chance to declare war on the US after the attack? To divide our forces? Or to legally sink our ships?

There was more, but I cannot remember it now. Anybody have any answers? I am going to post this on Rob's list too, as I think SDB might be my best hope for an answer. Please forgive me.

I know the Japanese were particularly brutal, and that Lia might have relatives who were involved in that theater during the war, so I hope I have not made it seem like I am trying to excuse Japan's actions. I am really surprised that everything I have been taught has been so one sided. With Germany there is plenty of talk about the events that lead up to what came to pass.

the captain:

Then as now, Japan's industry wasn't sustainable with local resources. Then as now, Japan depended primarily on imports of raw materials, and there were important ones where the Japanese didn't control their sources of supply. The seeds of the conflict between Japan and the US stretch back a long way; in most accounts it begins with the visit by Commodore Perry in 1853.

Leaving out a lot of context, what you end up with by the 1920's is a government in Japan where the Army is aggressive and imperialistic and essentially in control. You also have an army where mid-level officers have far more influence than they really ought to. Japan already controls Korea by this point and is looking fondly at Manchuria, and some officers in that area manufacture an incident and go into full scale attack without permission of the civilian head of government. Before they know what is happening, the army has already invaded large parts of Manchuria and is moving forward. (Many historians actually date the beginning of WWII to this incident in 1931, instead of the more usual dating based on the invasion of Poland.)

This eventually lead to war with China. Now China then was an ally of the US, and though Roosevelt's military situation was weak his economic and diplomatic power was considerable. There were threats and counter threats, and the US started imposing trade sanctions against Japan.

The final straw was imposition by the US, UK and in particular the Dutch of an embargo on petroleum and scrap steel sales to Japan. This threatened to stop Japanese industry and also to immobilize Japan's fleet.

They had enough petroleum stockpiled for perhaps 18 months of operation and after that they would be stuck. They needed the Indonesian oil fields (the best source in that part of the world, at that time under Dutch control).

So here's the decision that Japan was facing. It had, in 90 years, moved from being a backwater which had been shamed by a handful of American steamships in 1853 to a fully modern industrialized country with a formidable navy, something no other third world nation had done in that time. It could back down, apologize, stop the war in China, and slink back home with its tail between its legs. Or it could shove all its chips into the center of the table and attack.

Retreat was impossible. If such an order had been sent to China it would have been ignored, and the likelihood is that leaders giving such orders would have been assassinated. (In the 1920's, Japan's government was known elsewhere as "government by assassination"; it was preposterously common for mid-level army officers to order the deaths of politicians they didn't like.)

There were cultural issues here, too; the Japanese had abolished the caste system but still believed that their men couldn't be defeated. They also believed that the US was soft, effete, bourgeois, and had no real stomach for war.

On the side of the balance favoring attack was the fact that the Japanese naval Air Force was the best in the world at that time (though no-one outside Japan knew it). The US is weak "as we all know" and won't be willing to take a lot of losses "as we all know" and if Japan could take a lot of territory fast and then reinforce it, the US would decide it wasn't worth the price to take it back. And "as we all know" the US would lose as many men in the fight as Japan would. So the US would bargain rather than fight "as we all know".

At Gettysburg Colonel Chamberlain defended Little Round Top and was faced at one point with either retreating or attacking -- and since the consequences of retreat (loss of the entire battle) were intolerable, he ordered an attack. It was a brilliant (and desperate) move and succeeded beyond his wildest hopes. Many consider that the single critical battlefield decision of the entire battle (and indeed of the entire war since that was the turning point).

The Japanese made the same decision. They did, I think, understand that it was risky but considered the risk acceptable given the intolerable consequences of not attacking. What they didn't perhaps understand is the degree of fury that a sneak attack on Pearl Harbor would raise in the US. And some leaders in Japan (particularly Admiral Yamamoto) understood the industrial capacity of the US but none really understood the degree to which it would be trained on Japan, like a cannon aimed at a flea. Ultimately the war in the Pacific wasn't US soldiers against Japanese soldiers, or US ships against Japanese ships, but rather US industry against Japanese industry -- and that wasn't a contest. Within two years, from scratch, the US already had created a more powerful fleet and a more powerful airforce in the Pacific than the Japanese had managed to create in the pre-war years. And it only got worse from there. By 1945 the US fleet and air power in the Pacific was frankly incredible.

Another major mistake the Japanese made was to massively underestimate the importance of signal security. They believed that the Japanese language itself was sufficiently obscure and difficult that the Americans would never be able to understand their code transmissions. Again, they underestimated both the US and UK, and in the course of the war I'm not aware of a single Japanese cipher which resisted attack. On the other hand, the Japanese attempts to break into US code were total futility, and such efforts were always badly understaffed. By the end of the war, the US had at least a thousand times as many men involved in signal intelligence as did the Japanese, and this was a major contributor to the conduct of the war. Midway is the example most people know about, but it was in fact not the most important. Vastly more important was that the US was reading the ciphers used by the Japanese to control their merchant shipping, and using that information to control its submarines to attack said shipping. After 18 months of truly embarassing torpedo malfunctions, by mid 1943 the US submarine force began to leave a bloody swath through the Japanese merchant marine. The US succeeded in doing to Japan what the Germans failed to do to the UK: starve it out by submarine blockade.

The Flying Tigers never were an issue, by the way. The final straw which lead to war was the embargo on oil and scrap steel, which the Japanese took as an aggressive act. To this day you'll find Japanese who think that Japan really had no choice but to attack, and honestly think of Pearl Harbor as a defensive move forced on them by the US.

Also, there was never really an issue relating to obligations to Germany. That "alliance" was never really an alliance in the sense that the ones between the US, UK and USSR were, where each made sacrifices for the other and where they coordinated their efforts (such as the USSR's offensive launched in June 1944 to coincide with the Normandy invasion).

A demonstration of the fundamental unimportance of the Japanese/German alliance is that at the time of Pearl Harbor and for the rest of the war, Germany was locked in a death struggle with the USSR. Hitler hoped that the Japanese would attack the USSR in Siberia, draining away resources from the German front. Yet Japan never attacked the USSR, maintaining an uneasy truce at the border of Manchukuo and Siberia. (This was shattered in July 1945 when the USSR attacked.) This is because the Japanese had gotten their asses kicked by the USSR in 1939 in a brief war there. After Pearl Harbor, Germany (and then Italy) declared war on the US (much to the relief of both Churchill and Roosevelt, who wanted the US to fight Germany and had to figure out a way to convince the US public that an attack by Japan should result in a US war against Germany). A lot of people have wondered why Hitler did this; it turns out that he did so because he was hoping that Japan would in turn declare war on the USSR -- which never happened.
The Webbys: Who cares? I looked at the list and wasn't passionate enough about most of these to bother registering. If I did I'd vote for Blogger and a couple others, but...naw.
Blondie Update: My daughter, Elizabeth (21 months), is becoming a little disco princess. She grooves demurely to Blondie in her highchair. Then, yesterday, she said 'Blaw Blaw'. Christine said 'Blondie?' and Elizabeth said 'Ohhhhh' (which means 'yes'). Awesome.

Friday, April 27

I just got Best of Blondie from BMG and it rocks! Heart of Glass is my favorite, but I also like Tide is High, Call Me, and One Way or Another (I always thought that was a Chrissie Hynde number). Some of the ones I didn't know like Dreaming and Rip Her to Shreds are also growing on me. I bought it for nostalgia and fun and end up thinking they're a pretty good band. Go figure.

Thursday, April 26

one good way to reduce inbox spam
Filepile is having bandwidth problems. I think Filepile really is a next-generation tool that allows people to communicate more beyond text. It's the right model. And I think the technical problems they have to overcome are interesting. It fits in with the whole Napster, P2P thing. And this link highlights one of the cool things about MetaFilter: the founder is an early member of MetaFilter and weighed in with the inside story. Cool.
Supercavitating vehicles and weapons: By traveling inside drag-cutting gas pockets, new subsea systems can move much faster underwater than their conventional counterparts on the same amount of energy (via hmgovt on MeFi. Some interesting comments and discussion developed, including discussion of GI Joe's SHARC. rodii over there kicked in another article.).

Interestingly, the Soviets developed this tech long ago and using it may have been what destroyed the Kursk.
We're trying to save some money, so we're going to switch from our local ISP to AT&T. Suck. I hate AT&T. Plus, it's adware. It's humiliating, though maybe it shouldn't be. (My email address (which forwards to my real, POP3 account) will stay the same.)
John wrote (about his wife):

I did not expect Jen to how up because of her calligraphy class, but as I sat down to eat some cake I saw her talking to Jay. She always looks happy after class and I thought she looked very pretty.

Nathan's doing some nice stuff on political philosophy over the last couple of days. You should check it out.

For example:

The GOP has some things right, of course; they want to restrain spending, and keep taxes down, and promote limited government.

None of these things are good in themselves, necessarily. You could almost add 'inefficient' to each item in the list, or something like that. Because good, helpful spending is good, and I'm happy to pay for it (as long as the boys making more than me are paying their fair share). It's a tough balance to hit, though.
I have fallen so far off of the Lent wagon that now I question the existence of the wagon. I'm celebrating the Resurrection, right? Well, there's some of that. I couldn't face the scale at the club on tuesday. The news will probably be bad when I get back on.
I didn't link Matt's pirate webding yesterday when I first saw it, but I sent it to my brother and he replied and it still made me laugh, so I thought I'd better put it up.

Wednesday, April 25

Holey Mackerel: I'm on the front page of Robot Wisdom. I did it for the cause, but the perk isn't bad. Jorn must have put it up yesterday because that's when my hit count jumped to 45. this is the place where all of your made up words, slang, webspeak and colloquialisms become part of the dictionary as well. we take the words you use every day, but aren't in the dictionary, and put them into ours. all you have to is submit them. you'll even get credit and a link to your website (if you've got one). help us grow our dictionary by sending us your entries now! everyday more entries are added, so check back often (via kottke).

Tuesday, April 24

review recommending Bridget Jones's Diary. I haven't seen it yet, but I want to.

also, I've been reading some of the pans of Freddie Got Fingered, which are pretty funny.
big time Nader thread and political discussion.
Bush Turns Down Aegis Sale to Taiwan for Now. Seems like a waffle. China builds up their air power, but won't allow Taiwan to as well, and we cave. I don't like this China stuff.

Saturday, April 21

Christine wondered what a 'troll' is.
The Soul of the Web is personal expression. By clicking the button, you get a brief list of some sites that fit the bill. Very cool, especially if you have some browsing time or are looking for some new reads in this regard.
Scroll to the bottom for a new, cool touch.
Quebecois fight the power. I'm not saying they're doing it effectively. johnb says:

America, you want a free market? Then how about:

1) unilaterally removing all trade barriers (and leaving the rest of the world alone)
2) introducing genuine "rugged individualism": i.e., dismantle the corporate protectionism built into corporate charter (limited liability etc)

Consider it a dare.

Of course, these trade agreements aren't about free trade. They're about power protecting power.

Not sure I buy point one, but I darn sure buy point two. Besides, john isn't really advocating point one (read further).

(And then I think 'Our economy works pretty well. Would I really advocate messing with it? What about the ironclad law of unintended consequences? Still, ultimately, I think moving toward a freer market and a more humane market would be worth the risks.)

jdunn entropy debunks some common 'protestor' criticism.

In the mortal words of Speech (once a part of Arrested Development) 'If you think this system's working, ask somebody who ain't.'

I like Rebecca's thoughts about what would constitute a successful government/economy.

Put this down for the most intelligent MetaFilter thread ever. Is it because so many MeFi regulars were so integrally involved?

Friday, April 20

World 2000 music sales sag as free Web sites bite according to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI). I don't trust their data without confirmation.

While Napster is now facing an increasingly gloomy future after being ordered by a U.S. court to filter out copyrighted songs, the IFPI was confident legitimate music companies would eventually move in to fill the gap.

Sure, if you call moneygrubbing monopolists legitimate.

Thursday, April 19

Better news: NASA Unveils New Plane, Calls It Future of Aviation. Maybe, maybe not. However, it's nice to get some good news out of NASA. MetaFilter
The logging is sparse this week because I'm organizing a conference for 100 or so. Sorry.

Monday, April 16

cool 5k page/app (via kottke).
If you haven't seen it before, go over to glassdog and scroll up and down at various speeds and degrees and observe his wicked-cool sidebar. It almost goes without saying that I would have no idea how to do such a thing.
More on the Baylor cat-killers from Scott at ground zero.
lagado (John) has the best links:

'IF THE VIKINGS HAD FOUNDED New York (and they damn well nearly did), they probably would have called it New Jorvik after their own city of Jorvik (now called York) on the coast of Britain. Despite their reputation as marauders, Viking York was a densely populated and bustling port city which boasted a skyline of high rise buildings. It was the New York of it's day and here's a sense of what it was like.' discussion
Matt freakin' rules. What else are you going to say? He established a MetaFilter scholarship.

Sunday, April 15

disgusting quote of the day...

"Hey, the marriage might not last but the memories of your bachelor party at
the Uptown Caberet will last forever..."

- from an ad for the Uptown Caberet on the sports radio station (Charlotte, NC)

"Don't they mean 'the images of your bachelor party will be seared into your
BlogVoices is a lot less functional now that it doesn't show number of comments. Who's going to click to see if anyone has commented? And i'm not going to go back in manually. So I get an email when someone posts a comment, but that's about it. Not much interaction. I might just take it down.
Happy Easter!

Saturday, April 14

I watched some of Jesus of Nazareth the other day in observance of Holy Week. I thought it was pretty well done. I'm going to watch the rest tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 11

Parts of this sendup of Clippy, the MS Office Assistant, are funny (via milnak on MetaFilter). discussion
cool phone (via MattD on MetaFilter)
Wow. Fortress Around, I mean Focus on the Family sent a letter to the editor of Will and Grace. The editor wrote back. His reply is amazing. And there's discussion.
The boys are pretty excited about Opera.
It has begun: Matt's on the cover of Brill's Content this month and I just got my first server busy message.
Future Moon Base Sited! the key points:

Shackleton crater (best image)
a resource of hydrogen, likely in the form of water ice, ammonia, and other materials
at the Moon’s south pole and is some 30 kilometers in size
peak of external light - more or less continual Sun. solar energy becomes usable all the time. in the permanently shadowed areas in that region, various astronomical instruments could be operated with telescopic optics kept cold and stable

I posted this on MetaFilter and got some discussion.

Tuesday, April 10

Nathan fought the law...and won (basically). The system stinks, though I can't offer better alternatives off the top of my head that would be cost-effective.

Monday, April 9

Steven made me laugh out loud:

OK, reality time. Dear China: there will be no apology and no end to monitoring flights in international airspace. But if our people aren't released soon, there might be a trade embargo. You need export-driven jobs a lot more than we need umbrellas and dishes. Think it over. Your friend, Steve

And in the mean time, I urge everyone to boycott Chinese products for as long as their leaders continue to hallucinate that a prop-plane with 24 people on board deliberately tried to ram a jet fighter.
The reconstruction of the city of Tell El Armana: Jorn calls this 'AkhenatenLand', and he's got a point. But it could be neat, too. I don't say 'cool' because Luxor is wicked hot.
Sour Grapes?

'Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer , Gary Player and many others say a grand slam must be accomplished in a single season rather than in the way Tiger achieved the feat.'

I say 'baloney'.

There's an interesting discussion going on over on MetaFilter about this, particularly its relative importance (say, to the Apollo Moon Landing).
Sorry I'm slow to update today. I had trouble accessing Blogger for awhile.

Saturday, April 7


My favorite quote from Bad Sports or: How We Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the SUV by Paul Roberts in this month's Harper's Magazine (this link is to the mag, not the article):

"Whether we're in the market for cars, clothes, or off-road running shoes, we are a nation of naked emperors, unable to distinguish between want and need, between actual utility and simply looking the part."

Friday, April 6

The difference between Europe and America. I agree with the European view on a lot of these things (via andrianhon on MetaFilter). Discuss.
Definitely left-leaning list of top 25 undercovered stories of last year (via legibility on MetaFilter). Interesting.
You have to be really into MetaFilter to get 'Name that MetaFilter'. And if you're really into MetaFilter, you've probably already read this because you read Matt religiously. But I'm coming to it late and I found it funny, though a little sad. If people are so hacked off, why do they keep reading? And here's the MetaFilter board game.
This may well be the next insanely great thing: a pen that can capture what you do on paper and send digital commands to the appropriate places, by Anoto.

"Right now, we're all trying to synchronize Palms, phones, Outlook, day planners, Web sites, and thousands of floating Post-it Notes," says Jeff Anderson, VP of Franklin Covey's Eproducts and Planner division. "It's almost seamless now, but the big glaring gap is paper-back-to-digital. Anoto is the last leg to the full solution."

There are innumerable applications in which digital input could migrate happily to paper: imagine putting a check mark in the newspaper to program your VCR. Anoto pens themselves will be customized by users who check off options in manuals, the interface fine-tuned by - what else? - ticking boxes on paper. If you want to customize the color of the ink or the texture of a line in an email message, for instance, you'll choose from a list of options on a printed menu. Or you could create a virtual flip book by sketching a series of drawings and selecting a box labeled "Send as GIF animation."

Is there a weakness in this plan? On the face of it it looks invincible to me.
I preached two sundays ago on Jesus' words from the cross 'I thirst.'
BMG is still a great deal on music: 12 CDs for the price of one with no more to buy ever. I joined again today (sorry Christine :-).
Nothing's wrong with me. I'm not sick. I'm not depressed. I simply wrote my funeral address and sent it to my friends and family.

Wednesday, April 4

Score one for democracy (in the broad sense, preempting you governmental literals out there). Comments from users on the usefulness of
Neale has just kept posting on an old MeFi thread to make it the longest thread ever. Crazy.
John Dvorak says OSes need to stand still for 5 years, for a variety of reasons. Sounds good to me. They might as well have.

Tuesday, April 3

Okay, I'm not linking to Jason any more until he links back to me. (That's a joke.)

He's got some funny excerpts from a book written on Wendy's comment cards.

I guess I've got one of those one-way relationship's going with Jason. Just look at the evidence. I write about him enough. I care about what he writes and his site. But he doesn't know me. And I don't really know him, though I have the illusion that I do.

I'm familiar with this because I've seen it happen with church attenders and their preacher. It's probably even happened with me as that preacher some.
Committing Matrimony: crazy stuff happens at weddings (via Hobbsblog).
My friend Ryan started a weblog. I helped him get started. Ryan is good people.

Monday, April 2

Doesn't anybody believe in sacrilege anymore? 'Jesus' is looking for a mate. If you don't qualify he'll probably at least take a bath with you.
You must check this out: A series of drawings from an isometric perspective, in the style of a computer game. The subject of each drawing is the image, or images, that created a popular cultural event. Historical events (like the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the Lorraine Motel) are used interchangeably with fictionalized events (like the picnic scene from The Sound of Music) (via the latest Wired).
Only 39 percent of individuals who claim their net worth exceeds 5 million $ say they're 'very well off' (Yankelovich/Phoenix Home Life via the new Wired).
Divers find a 4,000 year old city underwater and off the coast of Lebanon. The city of Yamuta was once an important timber trading port but as the coastline gradually disappeared, the city was engulfed by the Mediterranean Sea. The city was last mentioned in 1370 BC (via the always-excellent-archaeologically-minded lagado on MetaFilter).
In the end, what is the ethical distinction between a Brazilian who sells a homeless child to organ peddlers and an American who already has a TV and upgrades to a better one — knowing that the money could be donated to an organization that would use it to save the lives of kids in need?

Does Peter Singer have the solution to world poverty?

For starters, I'm not a utilitarian, so that's going to take some of the wind out of the sails of his argument for me. Also, his principles lead him to some other conclusions (animal rights equal with people, euthanasia, etc.) that I disagree with.

However, I think his conclusion here is powerful. More of us need to wrestle with it and I need to wrestle with it better personally.

In case you haven't read it, the article says Singer gives a fifth of his personal income in this regard. He's practicing what he preaches.

[You] can easily donate funds by using [your] credit card and calling one of these toll-free numbers: (800) 367-5437 for Unicef; (800) 693-2687 for Oxfam America.

In the light of this conclusion, I trust that many readers will reach for the phone and donate that $200. Perhaps you should do it before reading further.

You shouldn't take that cruise, redecorate the house or get that pricey new suit. After all, a $1,000 suit could save five children's lives.

But consider for yourself the level of sacrifice that you would demand of Bob, and then think about how much money you would have to give away in order to make a sacrifice that is roughly equal to that. It's almost certainly much, much more than $200. For most middle-class Americans, it could easily be more like $200,000.

And I'm posting the article on MetaFilter, if you'd like to check out the discussion over there.
If you're interested in the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, there's some interesting discussion you-know-where.
Ashley Judd is great and everything, but she's not purr-fect for 'Catwoman'. Can she really play gritty? I'm thinking of the Catwoman from 'Batman:Year One', which I think is the direction WB is going in general, especially considering the prequel they're going to do with Aronfsky.