Friday, June 28, 2013

The other Ozymandias

I was not aware that Percy Shelly wrote the famous Ozymandius in a sonnet  competition with his friend Horace Smith (hat tip Social Evolution Forum).

Here is Horace's:

Horace Smith

IN Egypt's sandy silence, all alone,
      Stands a gigantic Leg, which far off throws
      The only shadow that the Desert knows:—
    "I am great OZYMANDIAS," saith the stone,
      "The King of Kings; this mighty City shows
    "The wonders of my hand."— The City's gone,—
      Nought but the Leg remaining to disclose
    The site of this forgotten Babylon.

    We wonder,—and some Hunter may express
    Wonder like ours, when thro' the wilderness
      Where London stood, holding the Wolf in chace,
    He meets some fragment huge, and stops to guess
      What powerful but unrecorded race
      Once dwelt in that annihilated place.

Rather directly collapsing point don't you think?
And here is Shelley's better known piece (I got both from Wikipedia):
Percy Shelly
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desart. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Another look at a slow collapse?

Within apocalyptic circles you get arguments about fast versus slow collapses.  In fiction, to get the ball rolling, the apocalyptic writers tend to want to move things along and go for fast.  Novels that talk about the slow destruction of an economy, the 1980s rustbelt used to be popular, are not usually labeled as "apocalyptic" but are thought of as situation-driven character studies.
My viewpoint is that we have had a serious leveling out, and gradually accelerating decline since somewhere are around 1973.  You had Vietnam War Debt, which has since turned into everything debt, an oil crises that not withstanding a lot of fracking-hand waving seems to be back with us, environmental issues that have been shifted oversees, only to come back as global, rather than local problems, and the huge expansion of the global labor arbitrage issue - the 1980s had the shoe companies, now we have Doctors and Architects.  There are other memes you could get into if you are in a gloomy mood, but one I saw recently and liked was the Old Economy Steve meme:
Old Economy Steve: A meme for frustrated Millennials
Daryl Paranada, Market Place, 28 May 2013 (hat tip: Big Picture)

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Death of the brain teaser

Google started a fad, of asking its applicants completely off the wall questions: presumably to see how quickly and logically they could deal with unexpected situations.  I have never run into that type of questioning, but have seen it's close cousin, the hostile confrontational question, that is intended to much the same thing.

The problem?  They don't work.  They are predictive of nothing.  In fact most "job interview strategies" don't predict much of anything.  Those personality tests they give you, they have a very slight predictive value, which actually puts them ahead of most of the pack, which is why we will be answering them for a while.

So what types of questions would Google ask?

Google Finally Admits That Its Infamous Brainteasers Were Completely Useless for Hiring
Adam Pasick, The Atlantic, 20 June 2013 (hat tip: Big Picture)
How much should you charge to wash all the windows in Seattle?
Design an evacuation plan for San Francisco
How many times a day does a clock's hands overlap?
A man pushed his car to a hotel and lost his fortune. What happened?
You are shrunk to the height of a nickel and your mass is proportionally reduced so as to maintain your original density. You are then thrown into an empty glass blender. The blades will start moving in 60 seconds. What do you do?
Of course the hands of a clock question has an answer if you don't cheat by saying it is digital :  22 times.  Because the clock is a base 12 system with no zeros (midnight is not zero our except in military time, and even there it rolls over from the 23:00 hour) you "loose" two of the hours.  The big advantage of this type of base-12 system (once very common with money) is that it makes it easy to get quarters and thirds without algebraic math (.25 and .3333 and all that) that is difficult for market place people with limited math skills.
The rest of the questions look like they would be fun to answer: if you didn't have this really high paying job on the line.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Apocalyptic publishing

I had not realized that there were such specialized apocalyptic publishers out there.  Then one of my G-mail (Google) alerts sent me to Permuted Press.

It appears to be zombie (with a few werewolves) central.  I am not as conversant with zombies as I might be, but I do recognize a number of the titles.

While I don't have anything in particular against supernatural apocalypses, or even virus induced supernatural apocalypses, as zombie attacks are now derived, I did ask them which of their titles were non-zombie or werewolf based.

The following list came back.

Long Voyage Back
Long Voyage Back is a classic reprint that I have already reviewedNeena Gathering, dates back to 1988, and I already own based on some strong reviews I saw somewhere..  The other four are more recent, and of them, I have seen 14 get some strong reviews.  It certainly gets at the front of alphabetized lists.  If I ever get around to writing a novel, I will have to remember to call it "1!" by Aaron Aardvark.  Nothing like getting to the head of the line!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Where you get shot?

I don't pretend to recall what percentage of people get here in my adventures in apocalyptic fiction reading.  If I had to take a guess, the heroes get hit about 90% of the time in the arms or legs (to make for a handy flesh wound) and the bad guys get head/neck shot 60% of the time.  Good guy, sacrificial lambs (gay or otherwise) are never head-shot because that would keep them from having a last minute death bed conversation with the hero.

So what are the most likely places to get hit?  From Kneubuehl's Wound Ballistics: Basics and Applications (hat tip: TMP)

Body Part    - Surface Area  - WW2 actual % of hits
Head/neck              12%                    21%
Arms                       22%                   23%
Thorax                    16%                   13%
Abdomen                11%                   08%
Legs                        13%                   35%

I am presuming that the high percentage of head/neck and arm hits is related to what parts of the body are kept exposed while firing.  Most troops in World War 2 are firing from cover.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Hand carts to apocalyptic victory

There are all sorts of interesting issues that come up in apocalyptic novels.  One of the more common items is for the people who are on foot, to be far too unconcerned about the load they are carrying, or somewhat along those lines (usually with water) to underestimate how much that load will be.
In the past we have commented on how the typical infantryman's ammo load can get used up in 5 minutes (maybe ten with carbines) without a whole lot of problems.
Which begs the question of how did infantrymen carry around all their stuff.  Well in World War 2 at least, a lot of GIs used handcarts. 

US M4A3 Utility Handcarts
(hat tip: TMP)

One of the most popular small US Army 'vehicles' of WW2 is without doubt the M3A4 Hand Cart. 

A general misconception is that this was an Airborne item and only used by paratroops. In fact the Cart was a standard Ordnance item used by every branch of the US Army to haul ammunition and equipment.

In the apocalyptic novels, although there are a variety of manually (or wind) powered vehicles to move along the adventurous soul, Only a few make use of hand carts. The Road, has a grocery cart, and in 77 Days in September he uses it to transport sufficient supplies to get him home.  I seem to vaguely recall some people towing carts behind vehicles, but just about anyone with a clue knows whole well that works in fiction apocalyptic or post-apocalyptic settings (see The Road above).

M4A3 Handcart

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The new exponential canal

Nicaragua is having a new canal built for them by the Chinese.  As with the Panama Canal, it will avoid the need to pump water uphill by using an interior large freshwater lake to fill its locks.  And of course it will be large
John Daly, Naked Capitalism, 11 June 2013
As with the Three Gorges Dam, Beijing is not thinking small, as the proposed canal could take 11 years to build, cost $40 billion and require digging roughly 130 miles of channel. The Panama Canal, in contrast, is 48 miles long.
Fare enough, it is not clear that having an extra canal in the area will hurt U.S. strategic interests.  The big issue has generally been a fear of the Panama Canal being blocked, and its not that clear what use it would be to the Chinese Navy in an open war.  It obviously would break the Panamanian monopoly on quick Pacific Ocean - Caribbean Sea transit.
What I find problematic is the math used to justify the expenditure:
Nicaraguan advocates say that the channel is needed, arguing that inter-oceanic maritime freight traffic demand will outstrip the capacity of even the expanded Panama Canal by more than 300 percent within 123 years, and the canal’s construction create 40,000 construction jobs. Better yet, is could double the per-capita GDP.
There is no doubt that the sizing of even the enlarged Panama Canal locks causes some long lines.  
But for traffic to grow to 300% in 123 years requires a compounding growth rate of 4.6% every year (calculator: enter 1; blank, 123, 300). 
Is that a lot?
The U.S. through its very dynamic, expansive period of growth, with some able assists from European self inflicted implosions (aka: world wars) has had a compounding growth rate of 3%.  Even some of the status quo types think that that percentage may turn out to be lower in the future, with the size of the United States you might eventually run out of atoms and electrons in the solar system to absorb all the growth.  Since the United States is by far the largest user of the canal in the Western Hemisphere, a growth rate larger than the U.S. historical rate, seems a bit improbable.   Asking for that type of growth based on China- South American trade is asking a lot.
One suspects there is just a little bubble logic here.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Prepping - Canadian style

If you are preparing for the doomsday scenario, you have to stock up on vital supplies.

When you do it at the governmental level you call it "reserves": like oil reserves, or some such.

Well in Canada they have the maple syrup reserve.

The only problem, somebody has been stealing it.

Liquid Gold
Jacqueline Deslauriers, Finance and Development, June 2013 (hat tip MR)
It was a heist the Pink Panther would have been proud of: over several months, a gang of thieves surreptitiously siphoned off hundreds of thousands of gallons of maple syrup worth more than $18 million from Canada’s global strategic maple syrup reserve.­
That’s right: a global strategic maple syrup reserve. If you have never heard of it, you are not alone. Few had until the 2012 theft became public knowledge. The reserve is a Canadian cartel: something of a one-nation version of OPEC for maple syrup.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Best selling Norwegian book

The hottest new title in Norway is not a dystopian detective novel.  It's a book which has its own sort of apocalyptic ending: The Bible
Norway's hot new title? The Bible, now outselling 'Fifty Shades of Grey'
Saleha Mohsin Associated Press, 7 June 2013 (hat tip: MR)
It may sound like an unlikely No. 1 best-seller for any country, but in Norway — one of the most secular nations in an increasingly godless Europe — the runaway popularity of the Bible has caught the country by surprise. The Scriptures, in a new Norwegian language version, even outpaced "Fifty Shades of Grey" to become Norway's best-selling book. The sudden burst of interest in God's word has also spread to the stage, with a six-hour play called "Bibelen," Norwegian for "the Bible," drawing 16,000 people in a three-month run that recently ended at one of Oslo's most prominent theaters.
Officials of the Lutheran Church of Norway have stopped short of calling it a spiritual awakening, but they see the newfound interest in the Bible as proof that it still resonates in a country where only 1 percent of the 5 million residents regularly attends church...
It has sold nearly 160,000 copies and was Norway's best-selling book in 2012. Church officials concede that hefty marketing campaigns helped explain the strong sales.

Friday, June 7, 2013

If you want to live forever... should be a clam.

No military that I am aware of has weaponized a clam yet, but the big ones are always grabbing hold of divers legs in the movies so I wouldn't be surprised if someone has given the idea some thought.
Since we are all about terminations and finality here, we wouldn't want to leave out a fellow who was "born when Queen Elizabeth I was on the throne and William Shakespeare was writing The Merry Wives of Windsor."

Clam, 405, is oldest animal ever
Richard Alleyne, The Telegraph, 28 October 2001 (hat tip: MR)
The record-breaking shellfish, 31 years older than the previous oldest animal, another clam, was caught last year when scientists from the Bangor University School of Ocean Sciences were dredging the seabed north of Iceland.
The clam far outlives other venerable animal species such as the Galapagos tortoise (the oldest known specimen of which lived for 176 years) and the bowhead whale (130 years).
So with our clammy friend here, we will end our (unplanned) apocalyptic animal week on a peaceful non-apocalyptic note.  Sort of:
The shellfish was dredged as part of a study into climate change over the centuries...

Not the specific clam in question (from here)

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Apocalyptic bat bombings

We are continuing on with our apocalyptic menagerie of alternate war animals.

Today's animal shows up in semi-apocalyptic novels of the gothic persuasion, the vampire story, quite frequently.  In a world under vampire control, bats do well.

But the bats as spreaders of a more realistic (in a science fictional sort of way) has been looked at in fiction.  In Alan Scott's The Anthrax Mutation they spread disease, and

But bats have also had their day in weapons research as well.

During World War 2, the United States thought about using bats dropped from bombers as a way to spread little incendiary bombs into the trees and attics of Japanese cities.

As odd as the idea sounds, it may have worked to well for its own good  (from Wikipedia: Bat Bomb):
A series of tests to answer various operational questions were conducted. In one incident the Carlsbad Army Airfield Auxiliary Air Base near Carlsbad, New Mexico, was set on fire on May 15, 1943, when armed bats were accidentally released
The bats incinerated the test range and roosted under a fuel tank. Following this setback, the project was relegated to the Navy in August 1943, who renamed it Project X-Ray, and then passed it to the Marine Corps that December.
The Bat Bomb fire (from here)
The Japanese tried to set our Northwest forests on fire (with some success) with balloon carrying incendiaries.  It appears that if you could make a small enough device, the bats did a better job.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Alternative pack animals

Since we somewhat at random have started a series on alternate military animals,  Here is another one.

This one comes from an interesting set of new photos from Finland in World War 2.  So the pack reindeer is not a gimmick.

Note that the Finish were first invaded by the Soviet Union, than participated with the Germans in their invasion (or from a Finnish point of view counter-invasion) of the Soviet Union, and than got into a fight with the Germans when they switched sides late in the war.

Finland in World War II  (hat tip: MR)

While the Finish government of the time, was modeled somewhat along a fascist line, with the exception of 8 Jewish refugees handed over to the Germans, they appear to have treated Jewish refugees well, and their own (mostly Swedish speaking) Jewish population fought in the ranks of their armed forces.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Military grade honey bees

Bees are described in apocalyptic terms with regard to their recent mass die off.
There is a post-apocalyptic series out there, Queen City Jazz, where huge bio-engineered bees are used as information careers.  Given that the novel is described as representing a bio-engineered world gone mad, the bees roll is somewhat problematic.

Well now we have military grade honey bees.  More troops for the apocalypse.

Honeybees trained in Croatia to find land mines
Dusan Stojanovic and Darko Bandic, AP 18 May 2013 (hat tip: MR)
Mirjana Filipovic is still haunted by the land mine blast that killed her boyfriend and blew off her left leg while on a fishing trip nearly a decade ago. It happened in a field that was supposedly de-mined.
Now, unlikely heroes may be coming to the rescue to prevent similar tragedies: sugar-craving honeybees. Croatian researchers are training them to find unexploded mines littering their country and the rest of the Balkans.