Print Story I've had a bellyful
By TheophileEscargot (Fri Apr 11, 2008 at 12:46:00 AM EST) Reading, Me, MLP (all tags)
Reading: "The Belly of the Bow". Me. Web. Misc.

What I'm Reading
Second book in the Fencer trilogy: The Belly of the Bow. This one was pretty weak. The military stuff didn't seem plausible at all. It rested on one army made up entirely of heavy infantry, no cavalry, no projectile weapons; and another made up entirely of archers. Infantryland is supposed to be a long-established army too. It's not like it's just been assembled by a hitherto peaceful society. Nor is it just doing ritualised or agonistic combat: it's supposed to be the real thing.

I suppose the closest example might be the Ten Thousand: Hellenistic mercenary heavy infantry who found themselves stranded in enemy territory after their army dissolved: but practically the first thing they did was create a sub-corps of slingers to give themselves some projectile weapons from the materials at hand.

There's also badly-handled attempt at shocking the reader: but seems to involve someone acting far too out of character, and it's something seen before.

Hopefully she'll pull something together for the last volume.

The interring of my grandmother's ashes at the cemetery is happening today. Have a bad feeling about it: suspect it's going to be an organizational nightmare.

Amazon product: Penetrating Wagner's Ring (spoilsports).

Articles: Diana verdict.

Starting salaries by major. Top 5: Engineering, Computer Programming, Mathematics, Economics, Accounting.

I don't get advice columns. Just who is the crazy one there?

Misc topics
Keep meaning to write about various things, but can't find the time. So here's a few hastily-written thoughts, without much depth or research.

  • Complex cult systems
    Whenever I start looking into cult mysticism or so on, what strikes me is how ugly the system looks. It's like reading one of those horrible fat functional specs full of redundancies and exceptions and special cases and jargon... it just seems heartsinkingly dull.

    I really don't see what normal people see in them, but they obviously have a lot of appeal. Maybe normal people aren't used to dealing in abstract systems, so it all looks impressive to them. What is the appeal?


    From Ain Suph Aur crystallises Kether, the first sephirah of the Hermetic Qabalistic tree of life. From Kether emanate the rest of the sephirot in turn, viz. Kether (1), Chokhmah (2), Binah (3), Daath, Chesed (4), Geburah (5), Tiphareth (6), Netzach (7), Hod (8), Yesod (9), Malkuth (10). Daath is not assigned a number as it is considered either a false or a hidden sephirah.
    Scientology bible:
    NED for OTs handles those BTs and clusters which, while they could still affect the body, are not readily responsive to OT III handling. As NED for OTs is run these cats wake up and get handled. This relieves the Pre-OT of a lot of phenomena which puzzles him and can hold him down. As you go along in running it you will find that the material to which NED for OTs is addressed seldom considers itself live beings.
  • Immigration report
    The Lords immigration report came out a while back I find it irritating even though the report isn't entirely worthless that it was spun so heavily. As David Smith hints, they seem to have heavily publicized its conclusions before the report was actually published, thus getting a whole day's worth of headlines suggesting they've proved immigration is economically worthless before anyone could criticize it.

    Report, Guardian, Stumbling and Mumbling, FT, Independent, Times, Times, Telegraph, MeFi, Herring.

  • Fat activism
    They seem to have a problem with framing. They keep coming up with things like show your face and BMI illustrated. The purpose is to show lots of pictures of people who have been declared fat by the oppressive mainstream media and medical establishment, to demonstrate that fat people are actually beautiful, normal people.

    The problem is, I think maybe because of the regions they live, or their social networks, or their families, they're accustomed to standards of fat and beauty that are bit different to those of people in thinner regions.

    Because as some pointed out here: when we see these allegedly fat people, they do look fat.

  • Biofuels and food prices
    Wish there was a decent article or website summarizing the issues and pros and cons, but I haven't seen one.

    On the one hand, there is currently a disturbing rise in grain prices. However, this is the result of several factors:

    1. Increased meat-eating in a more prosperous Asia, raising demand for feed grain.
    2. Bad harvests in several regions of the world
    3. Increased use of grain for biofuels
    4. Possibly a speculative bubble in commodities as money flees low interest rates into other investments. (Hotly debated)
    I would really like to see an estimate of roughly how much each factor is contributing to the rise, maybe in terms of kilotonnes of grain, but I haven't seen one.

    Now even if the effect of biofuels are small, there might still be a case for reducing their use: since they're heavily dependent on subsidies, they're probably the easiest factor to change.

    However, there seems to be a lot of spin around at the moment that the grain-price problem can be solved just by eliminating biofuels. That seems unlikely because of the other factors: it might ameliorate the problem but is unlikely to solve it.

    Whether it's worthwhile depends on the utility of biofuels, but it's hard to find sensible information on that either.

    There seems to be a certain amount of wishful thinking, that when the oil runs out we can just substitute biofuels in vehicles and keep burning as many gallons as we do now. That seems impractical given the amount of cropland that would be required.

    However, assuming that post-oil we can transition to other forms of power generation (say nuclear for example), while we can run trains, homes and factories on that, we still have to distribute food and stuff to people. I think the "last mile" is a particular problem, since you can't use trains.

    So, it seems likely to me that biofuel trucks, vans, taxis and buses may well be the most practical means of doing this. So, it could be worthwhile to develop biofuels infrastructure for things like that. This depends on how hard it is to develop such an infrastructure.

    But I'm not seeing any real practical analysis on that side of things either.

< I can has job | On being different in a small town >
I've had a bellyful | 21 comments (21 topical, 0 hidden)
Cult systems by Merekat (4.00 / 1) #1 Fri Apr 11, 2008 at 01:31:09 AM EST
Fuckin' hell, it really is like reading rfcs...

I might try sticking random scientology terms by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #2 Fri Apr 11, 2008 at 01:38:51 AM EST
Into whatever technical document I have to write next.
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?
[ Parent ]
Either that by Merekat (4.00 / 1) #4 Fri Apr 11, 2008 at 01:48:16 AM EST
Or copy/paste from the next spam you get. It is about as coherant.

[ Parent ]
Or... by anonimouse (4.00 / 1) #14 Fri Apr 11, 2008 at 08:18:16 AM EST
..the latest changes to AD&D

Girls come and go but a mortgage is for 25 years -- JtL
[ Parent ]
Definately husband. by hulver (4.00 / 2) #3 Fri Apr 11, 2008 at 01:42:45 AM EST
He should have run far far away by now.
Cheese is not a hat. - clock
Food crisis by nebbish (4.00 / 1) #5 Fri Apr 11, 2008 at 02:25:20 AM EST
This is just an idea and speculation on my part, but wouldn't a poor harvest/civil war in one area have a small knock-on effect globally in the modern world economy, instead of causing a devestating local famine as in the past?

It's political correctness gone mad!

Possibly by TheophileEscargot (4.00 / 1) #6 Fri Apr 11, 2008 at 02:37:50 AM EST
On the other hand, it might be more balanced out gluts and exceptionally good harvests elsewhere. I'm not sure.
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?
[ Parent ]
I heard an interview with a farmer recently by lm (4.00 / 2) #7 Fri Apr 11, 2008 at 04:13:15 AM EST
He was saying that the biofuel companies that buy with him are selling to the food producers post processing. Traditional processing of corn for ethanol doesn't remove enough of the energy from grain to reduce it's value as a food source all that much so they can sell the resulting slurry or meal to various producers and it ends up either in Corn Flakes or as feed stock.

The big increase (for him) was the cost of fuel and fertilizers. Grain prices have been good for him, but not unusually so. I suspect that bio-fuel is a relatively small factor. Another story I heard on the radio, the increase in the price of rice which is not to my knowledge used for bio-fuel, seems to me to confirm this assessment. Rice farmers in Asia are getting hit with increased costs for pesticides, labor, fuel, and fertilizers. This is in places where I don't believe there is competition in arable land for crops that would be used for biofuel.

All this said, personally I think the best source for biofuel is bio-waste. I'm not opposed to growing crops specifically for biofuels, but I think the best spot biofuels can hold in a rational economy is as a method to reduce losses due to waste. A great example of this are the start up biodiesel processors that set up shot next to animal rendering plants and convert the leftover skins, bones, feathers, fat, etc. into fuel. I think it would do the world well if more companies started getting into a mindset of looking into ways to reduce losses from inefficiencies. Another example of this would be using the waste heat in factories, especially ones with blast furnaces, to produce the electricity that very factory needs.

Kindness is an act of rebellion.
Complex cult systems by lm (4.00 / 2) #8 Fri Apr 11, 2008 at 04:16:54 AM EST
I think they offer the same attraction as conspiracy theory, a `hidden' answer that only the initiated/sufficiently enlightened can understand. This offers the adherents a sense of community that they otherwise lack, provides relief to existential longing for meaning, and offers continual hope for increasing understanding of the hidden knowledge.

Kindness is an act of rebellion.
5. Protectionism / Low liquidity by Scrymarch (4.00 / 1) #9 Fri Apr 11, 2008 at 04:28:10 AM EST
For instance, a lot of the big rice producers in South and East Asia produce almost entirely for a protected domestic market. Only the excess is traded on the world market for a freely determined price. Now I have no problem saying that is the real cost of rice, but as a result that global market is pretty illiquid and thinly traded by comparison to the actual rice supply. This makes it quite volatile under pressure like the supply shocks of this year and the demand pressure from biofuels.

I think you could be right that biofuels are viable for the last mile, but conversion of carbon sinks (ie forests) into eg palm oil plantations is a nasty case of unintended consequences ...

The Political Science Department of the University of Woolloomooloo

Women Authors and the Military Fiction Genre by ammoniacal (4.00 / 3) #10 Fri Apr 11, 2008 at 04:31:37 AM EST
Nearly as authentic and convincing as my latest pamphlet entitled Childbirth Made Easy.

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

I preferred your earlier pamphlet by anonimouse (4.00 / 2) #12 Fri Apr 11, 2008 at 08:04:31 AM EST
Dilation and Curettage made easy.

Girls come and go but a mortgage is for 25 years -- JtL
[ Parent ]
I don't know for certain she's a woman by TheophileEscargot (4.00 / 1) #17 Fri Apr 11, 2008 at 11:16:52 PM EST
And her later books are much more realistic militarily.
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?
[ Parent ]
Not to be an arse, but... by ammoniacal (4.00 / 1) #19 Sat Apr 12, 2008 at 10:39:42 AM EST
more realistic militarily

How would you really know?

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

[ Parent ]
Because by TheophileEscargot (4.00 / 1) #20 Sat Apr 12, 2008 at 11:00:31 PM EST
Having read a reasonably amount about ancient history and ancient warfare, I have a sufficient knowledge of pre-gunpowder warfare to spot military implausibilities in her early books. Since I did not spot similar problems in her later books, I think they are more realistic.
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?
[ Parent ]
Once upon a time by anonimouse (4.00 / 1) #11 Fri Apr 11, 2008 at 08:01:15 AM EST
An army of Roman Legionaries marched in Parthia, led by this guy called Crassus. 35,000 heavy infantry went in, plus about 8-10,000 support troops. They met an army of horse archers. 10,000 of the 45,000 that went there came back. Crassus was killed, allegedly by having molten gold poured down his throat...

This is not to say that the Roman Army always lost in such circumstances. They chose the wrong battleground and tactics for their strengths on this occassion.

Girls come and go but a mortgage is for 25 years -- JtL
Not quite the same though by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #16 Fri Apr 11, 2008 at 11:15:29 PM EST
Roman legionaries were equipped with two javelins, so they had projectile weapons. And while they downplay their significance, their Italian allies provided them with cavalry auxiliaries.

Parker's halberdiers just have halberds: no cavalry at all, no projectile weapons at all. Also they've apparently never heard of the concept of scouting, preferring to blunder into ambushes all the time.
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?

[ Parent ]
Scouting by anonimouse (4.00 / 1) #18 Sat Apr 12, 2008 at 12:47:56 AM EST
Lots of armies have made similar blunders. Varro in the Teutoburger Forest springs to mind. Hannibal also punished poor scouting by the Romans.

I also don't call pilums projectile weapons (effective range 30 yds?) compared with that of a compund bow (1-200yds?).

With Crassus, about 2,000 of the 4,000 light cavalry lead by Crassus son went in pursuit of the horse archers; they forgot about the 1,000 heavily armoured cataphracts just waiting to play..... and the result was predictable.

Roman legions are primarily monolithic in terms of weapons; the auxilia are largely a sideshow, used to harass the enemy or pull them into the arms of the heavy infantry.

Girls come and go but a mortgage is for 25 years -- JtL
[ Parent ]
The Teutoburg Forest by TheophileEscargot (4.00 / 1) #21 Sat Apr 12, 2008 at 11:17:41 PM EST
Was a bit of an anomaly. Varro thought he was moving through friendly territory with his German allies, not realising they'd just switched sideas and were now his enemy.

He didn't repeatedly blunder into ambush after ambush after ambush in hostile territory, while never bothering to send out any scouts at all.

As we've discussed before, relatively little is known about the details of Roman tactics. I don't think you can assume that the auxiliaries were a sideshow though: Roman writers would naturally have played up the role of the Romans and downplayed the contributions of their allies.

The Romans worked very hard to secure agreements with their allies to provide auxiliary troops, giving preferential treatment in terms of taxation, trade and citizenship to them. Those incentives were sufficient that even when Hannibal was rampaging through Italy for years the allies didn't switch sides.

That suggests that the Romans regarded the military role of the allies as important. They were certainly willing to put their money where their mouth wasn't.

It's quite difficult for a city to provide large numbers of horses and horsemen, but pastoralists can graze horses relatively easily.

The auxiliaries supplied Roman armies with both cavalry and archers. An auxiliary cavalry would have prevented the situation Parker sets up, where much smaller formations of infantry archers set up a distance away from the Halberdiers and run away when the Halberdiers advance.
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?

[ Parent ]
Homogeneous armies are perfectly plausible by Rogerborg (4.00 / 3) #13 Fri Apr 11, 2008 at 08:16:13 AM EST
You just turn away any troops who don't match the ones you've already painted recruited, then you go and lose horribly to the first force that goes to war with the army that it has, rather than the one that it wants.

Metus amatores matrum compescit, non clementia.
food prices by MillMan (4.00 / 1) #15 Fri Apr 11, 2008 at 11:45:47 AM EST
I think lm is right in reference to fertilizer and pesticide costs being the main driver in the recent price increases.

Fundamentally we're no increasing yield per acre the way we were able to in the 20th century during the green revolution. So while it may appear that localized events such as the drought in Australia or biofuel demand are driving prices, those events are simply riding on top of our decreasing ability to increase supply as demand increases.

When I'm imprisoned as an enemy combatant, will you blog about it?

I've had a bellyful | 21 comments (21 topical, 0 hidden)