Search engines have been losing the battle against content farms for a decade or so. Around 1 March I noticed that DuckDuckGo was including random things that it thought were physically close to my IP address in search results, things like maps, business directories, or local news stories that did not have most or any of the keywords but were things people might often click on. That made me look more into what DuckDuckGo actually is these days.
These posts are an experiment: can I have fun talking about martial arts problems as problems to a general audience? Talking with other fencers about fencing theory tends to frustrate everyone unless they already agree. If you like this post or have trouble following, please let me know!
One of the fundamental problems in fencing goes like this. You and your partner are both standing in guard, Because the hand is quicker than the eye, and because in armed combat one strike or thrust can kill, you are far enough away that neither can strike the other without stepping. That extra distance (measure) gives you time (tempo) in which to notice their attack and defend yourself. You want to attack first with a cut. How do you do so without walking on to their point?
In November I was talking to James Baillie who had questions about why the war in Ukraine was becoming harder to follow. To understand why that is, we have to think about the two forms of industrial warfare. While its dangerous to predict, as I schedule this post in December I foresee that the Russo-Ukrainian War is about to slow down after momentous events in January and February 2023 (and it is worth saying that I was wrong about those momentous events – ed.). I think that when a war settles down along fixed lines (whether the NATO intervention in Afghanistan or the Russian invasion of Ukraine) it becomes hard for anyone to know who is winning.
I have said this now and then and some people find it helpful, so here it is! People behave differently on the post-2008 Internet than before because most of them are on smartphones or pads not laptops or desktops. For example, its hard to copy and paste blocks of text on a touchscreen, but usually... Continue reading: What is Easy on a Laptop is Hard on a Touchscreen
Roel Konijnendijk has published his second monograph, on the intellectual climate in Germany in the late 19th and early 20th century and how that influenced the writing of ancient military history. Its from Brill, so its priced for libraries not individuals (if you can’t borrow a copy or have your library buy one, email him for other options!) I think a research history like this would play to his strengths. Just remember that there was also research in French and Russian before and after serious ancient history started to be written in English!
Many nerdy people use Facebook. Until recently, Facebook let you set the visibility of posts to “Friends” by default so only people whose friend request you had accepted could see them. This was very important for people who face stalking or harassment but wanted to keep in touch with people they knew through social media. Sometime in the past few months, Facebook changed that setting to “Friends (+)” which allows friends of friends. This roughly squares the potential audience of a post, and means that a stalker, harrasser, doxer, or identity thief just has to become Facebook friends with one of your friends to start seeing your posts! Almost anyone knows someone who accepts random Friend or Follow requests on corporate social media. If they mean “friends of friends of the people tagged” then tagging someone still doubles the number of people who can see a post. Stalkers, tabloid journalists, and other nuisances often follow their target’s contacts on social media in hopes of picking up information.
I’m not an expert on corporate social media, but the only way to limit post visibility seems to be to create a list of Friends and share with them. The option “just people whose Friend request I have accepted” seems to be gone. I can’t find any offline documentation of this change. If you use Facebook and are concerned about privacy, you should probably check your settings and think whether you want to change what you post (and especially who you tag, because tagging someone definitely makes a “Friends +” post visible to their friends). My approach to corporate social media focuses on harm reduction rather than expecting everyone to be a privacy geek. Screenshots are below the fold.
One thing I did not spell out is that people with training in history, archaeology, or similar rarely make the key decisions about historical documentaries. Old Media documentaries are businesses like any other film or TV show. They are run by business people and drama people who want return on investment and artistic fulfillment. Scholars may be interviewed and provide sound bites, but what they say is scripted or edited to fit a message chosen by those business people and drama people. Because TV and film are big money, they face big pressure. For example, Zahi Hawass features in almost any documentary about ancient Egypt, not because of his expertise, but because he is very well connected and documentaries which don’t give him airtime have problem after problem with the Egyptian government. Often, a documentary is based on one or two popular books or press releases, so its well downstream of original research. Business people and drama people don’t have the skills or inclination to dig too far into “how do we know that?” so they tend to compare experts and pick the one who sounds most convincing or most exciting. Everyone has to do this sometimes, but trained historians are much better equipped to deal with questions like this.
I’ve never been sure how to do these since I switched from reading like a novel-lover (reading books in my native language from cover to cover then sending them back to the library) to reading like a scholar (dipping in and out of books, reading in languages I am not fluent in). Should magazines count? Individual short stories read online? Books and stories heard over the radio or on a mobile computer? And there is no sense making this into another piece of unpaid work keeping records of what I read! But I feel like doing one at the end of this year.
I err on the side of including things which don’t appear in my academic notes and reading list so might otherwise be unrecorded.
I am not including books which I read in manuscript.
This post might include some things from the last week of 2021. See previous discussion about unpaid work!
After a war the winners start to argue about credit, whether the Athenians and the Spartans arguing about who saved Hellas from the Mede, or the Allies arguing about who did more to defeat Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. And while these debates are nominally about the past, the different positions tend to correspond to different views about who should be honoured and respected in the present. Within Athens there was a debate about the contribution of leisured hoplites and working-class rowers at the same time that advocates of a narrow democracy and a wide democracy were fighting. After the collapse of the USSR, the Soviet contribution became better acknowledged in the North Atlantic world (although Soviet failures which had been covered up were also uncovered after the archives opened and the censors had to get real jobs). In the past ten years, a new view has emerged which argues that the US, UK, Germany, and Japan all put a majority of their manufacturing capacity into air forces and gave ground forces second or third priority. To them:
The Germans lost more infantry on the Eastern Front, but they lost far, far more of their equipment (and best trained forces) fighting the British and Americans. This is because the German Army as I have pointed out, received relatively little German production compared to the Air Force/Navy. Basically, because the Germans could afford to send so little equipment to the Eastern Front, they tried to get by using unsupported soldiers. Actually, the ‘vast bulk’ of German losses were caused fighting the western Allies, and its not close.