link dump. commonplace book

Quote Dump

As always, citation implies neither approval nor disapproval.

A specialist in early medieval archaeology spells out one big problem with the modern fixation on fitting ancient people into boxes and assigning them distinctive labels:

Before I start, though, I want to address the obvious criticism of the topic, which is that modern scholars work a lot on identities, but did past people care as much? Certainly it can be argued that early medieval people did not say very much about identities, and nor do modern people, outside academia. But they did not say very much about a lot of things that modern scholars obsess over, such as gender, ethnicity, social age, or sometimes even aristocracy or nobility. The only social categories that they wrote much about were ones with precise legal importance, status that had implications for property and legal rights.

It is almost certainly the case that the inhabitants of sixth-century northern Gaul did not think of themselves in terms of many – perhaps most – of the categories that I have discussed here, although some of those aspects of their identity were remarked upon and thought of as important. Nevertheless, even if entirely modern in its framing, I think that, if theorised in sophisticated fashion, the concept of identities and their interplay provides a valuable means of analysing past societies and, on that basis, thinking about the present.

– The thinly pseudonymous Historian on the Edge

I’m writing about this now because these vulnerabilities illustrate two very important truisms about encryption and the current debate about adding back doors to security products:

1) Cryptography is harder than it looks.
2) Complexity is the worst enemy of security.

These aren’t new truisms. I wrote about the first in 1997 and the second in 1999. I’ve talked about them both in Secrets and Lies (2000) and Practical Cryptography (2003). They’ve been proven true again and again, as security vulnerabilities are discovered in cryptographic system after cryptographic system. They’re both still true today.

– Bruce Schneier, “Cryptography is Harder than it Looks,”

The re-enactment world in general, but the Roman one in particular, is very prone to breakaways. I have heard recently of a group of only six breaking in half as egos clash.

– Chris Haines, “History of the Guard,”
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