Modern

Posts on events in the last few hundred years

Cross-Post: International Ancient Warfare Conference 2022

a socketed steel spearhead on a varnished wooden table
What questions can we ask about a spear? Find out at IAWC 2022

The latest International Ancient Warfare Conference will happen online from Thursday 23 June to Saturday 25 June under the sponsorship of Prof. Graham Wrightson in South Dakota. I am speaking in session 14 from 10.45 to 12.15 Saturday. The topic I picked is “Get to the Point: What Questions Should We Ask About a Spear?”

Sessions are open to the public and will not be publicly recorded (I may share my talk afterwards). There is no website for the conference, but here are a list of panels with links. All times are US Central Time (UTC -5.00).

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Google Pulls All Cornell University Library Videos

A "this page isn't available" scren for the YouTube channel of Cornell University Library
The status of Cornell University Library Channel as of 18 June c/o Dr. Alex Gill, Columbia University https://nitter.it/elotroalex/status/1538168994712399872#m

For about a week in June, Cornell University Library’s seven-year archive of videos were not viewable on YouTube. This was because they had posted an interview with the editors of pioneering lesbian magazine On Our Backs. You can find the details on Susie Bright’s new blog and check the status of their videos on Piped, a front-end for YouTube without the surveillance. Because they are a US institution with on the order of $10 billion in investments, and because censoring lesbian theory during pride month is a bad look, Cornell University was eventually able to have the channel restored. I just want to make one point.

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Automattic is Creepy

This peaceful presenter is in a pickle! Leaving his usual home to be photographed by PA Media, he finds himself trapped in the triple web of an invasive content delivery network! Can he escape with his shiny toy? An example of Automattic’s CDN grabbing and serving an image from a random URL from i0.wp.com/, in this case Sir David Attenborough at https://ichef.bbci.co.uk/news/976/cpsprodpb/125EA/production/_125324257_hi076596136.jpg

On 7 June I learned that Automattic automatically copies images and other uploads to their own servers at the domain http://i2.wp.com/ It does so whether or not the uploads have been shared publicly. Not only that, but it keeps doing this once you move from their hosting with the Jetpack plugin to independent hosting without it. Their pretext is that if they host the same file in many physical places, they can generate your site quicker for people in distant parts of the world, but they keep doing this even if you are no longer using the Jetpack plugin which provides this service. I was completely unaware of this while I was hosting my site with Automattic (ie. WordPress-the-company, distinct from WordPress-the-open-source-software).

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When Trust is Verified Badly

Now, we can observe many flaws in just this one passage, but it should be noted that Low has done her reading and cites widely. The problem is that the analyses on which she is working are themselves flawed and, without detailed study outside of her discipline, she and other academics are unlikely to realise this. This is a hard warning for those of us who wish to research that assumptions are pervasive and insidious.

Rob Runacres, “HEMA Research: false truths and wishful thinking,” Western Martial Arts Workshop, Racine WI,September 2017 https://www.renaissanceswordclub.com/2017/09/27/hemaresearch/

In an earlier post, I argued that science advances human knowledge through a network that tests claims before they become premises in bigger arguments, and then tests the structure of those arguments to make sure they can hold the weight placed upon them. Past the early days of a field of knowledge, understanding advances because of systems and communities not lone geniuses who do everything themselves. Communities can ask more and harder questions than any one person can. But anyone who follows science news knows that this does not always happen. How can this system of verified trust fail?

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Objectives in a War on the Eurasian Steppes

a map of territory controlled by government forces, Russian forces, and neither in eastern Ukraine
Ukraine war map, 27 April, by Nathan Russer https://nitter.net/Nrg8000/status/1519328137821454337#m After two months of war, Russian gains are in pockets a few kilometers deep and 10 km wide like an offensive in 1916

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine stalled in early March, I see some people on old and social media who are latching onto the fact that Russia still occasionally takes a new village in eastern Ukraine. Isn’t winning a war all about advancing?

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Where Did the Weapons Come From?

Back in February, as the evidence grew that Putin was about to commit the great mistake, journalists were sharing stories like this:

Dmytro Skatrovsky said he had not been notified by text but had turned up anyway outside the Svyatoshynskyi recruitment centre, in western Kyiv. He spent three years in the army and took part in the 2014 battle to evict separatists from the port city of Mariupol, he said.

“I’ve bought two sniper complexes with good optics,” he added. “I’ve also ordered a drone on Amazon. It hasn’t turned up yet.” Skatrovsky said a group of friends had chipped in to get the rifles – at a cost of $10,000 (£7,370). US contacts had paid $2,300 for the drone, he said.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/feb/23/business-brisk-at-kyiv-gun-shops-as-ukrainians-rush-to-buy-arms

Over on corporate social media, I see some people who are amazed and offended to see a wide range of kit in photos from the war in Ukraine, ranging from the latest and most fashionable rifles to Maxim guns on steel carriages and – well, I have not personally seen the 1903 Springfield rifles, and the WW II vintage Panzerfaust may have been stolen from a museum. I am not sure if that is as unusual as they think: the German army which invaded the USSR in 1941 has been described as a military museum on wheels, one of the machine guns in the Citadel at Halifax was removed from the museum collection circa 1991 because the Army needed it again, and an American National Guard veteran claims that his unit invaded Iraq in 2003 with old M3 grease guns last produced in 1945. In fact, if you looked at a random army sometime in the past few thousand years, I think you would see just such a diversity of arms, some bought from private sources, others made in rough workshops, others donated, and yet others purchased by the state.

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Two Links on Armoured Fighting Vehicles

Warfare between two powers with airforces and armoured divisions is complicated and technical, and many of the people who talk about it have ulterior motives. Some want to keep their audience by talking about the latest topic, others want to sell something, and a third kind are propagandizing for a state or a movement. Here are two links I found helpful¸and one topic which I wish I had a link on.

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Science as Verified Trust

“Ad faciendas cartas de pellibus caprinis more bononiense”: In this case I don’t have to trust: Reed’s Ancient Skins, Parchments, and Leathers (1972) p. 74 cites a chapter by “Theophilius” on making parchment in British Library MS. Harley 3915 fol. 128r, but the text cited is actually an anonymous text on fol. 148r of the same manuscript as Theophilius (British Library database, see them for image rights)

The higher you rise in any hierarchy, the harder it is to get accurate feedback about your decisions because people are afraid to tell you the truth. I’ve worked with several (US) presidents. All have made big blunders. I’ve also known and written about CEOs of big corporations who have made terrible mistakes. In every case, they had flawed systems for getting useful, accurate and reliable feedback.

Robert Reich (some kind of former political appointee from the USA) https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/apr/01/vladimir-putin-ukraine-truth-deniers-bad-decisions

There seems to be a lot of confusion about the role of trust in science or scholarship. Engineers such as Bill Nye and political propagandists throw around the phrase “trust the science”! On the other hand, the rationalists whom I mentioned last year brandish the Royal Society’s motto nullius in verba “Take nobody’s word for it” like a sword. I think both sides are working from some misconceptions about how science or scholarship work.

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