Archive for February, 2009

Got his badass quals 2

Monday, February 23rd, 2009

John W. January, a Union soldier imprisoned at Andersonville, GA, and Florence, SC, who amputated his own gangrenous feet because no surgeon was available.

To Craunch the Marmoset

Saturday, February 21st, 2009

A bit more than a week ago, Futility Closet had a post concerning a phrasebook from the Borneo Literature Bureau containing phrases considered useful when traveling in Borneo.

It put me in mind of two things: first, the phrasebook English as She is Spoke, famous (infamous? notorious?) for its ineptitude. You can view excerpts from it on Google Books.

The second is a book in my personal library, the Handbook of Japanese Conversations, by Morio Takahashi. It contains sample conversations on a number of topics, such as:

  • Greetings, Polite Expression, etc.
  • How to Apologize
  • How to Ask Somebody to Do Something
  • Salutation and Inquiries Concerning Health
  • Meals
  • At the Post and Telegraph Office

And many more.

This book was published in 1951, but appears to have been written much earlier, or perhaps developed over a number of years with an upper-class Englishman as the reference for the English language. I say that because of some of the references, as well as the style of speech:

    Is there a Marconi apparatus on board?
    Kono fune ni wa musen denshin ga ari masu ka.

    Whew! but they make a deuce of noise!
    Yaa, mattaku oosawagi wo shite i masu ne.

    Let us hope that it will occasion no shipwrecks.
    Soonan-sen ga nakereba yoi desu ga ne.

It also has some interesting vocabulary words that aren’t used in sample conversations, such as assassin, cutpurse, poaching, contraband, smuggler, and poison. Not to mention this sentence, which is part of a dialogue:

    It will require killing.
    Koroshite shimawa nakereba nari masen.

Let us hope that a visit to Japan will occasion no incident requiring the use of such vocabulary.

I am woman, hear me … squeak?

Thursday, February 19th, 2009

The feminist establishment has long been waging a war against men (after all, you have to work against an oppressor to become liberated, so men must oppressors if women need liberation), but it has now become absurd: Sigmund, Carl, and Alfred note the University of Connecticut police investigating an incident in which a man passed near a woman while walking down the street.

First of all, they were both walking on a public street. He passed within a few feet of her, but did not talk to her or make physical contact. What about the incident merits a police report? How does this woman expect to function if mere proximity to a male makes her call for the authorities?

Second, why wasn’t she laughed off by the authorities? He didn’t attack her, he didn’t follow her, he was just another pedestrian on the street. I’ve read about Driving While Black; this is Walking While Male, or maybe just Being Male.

She may have been afraid, but it sure doesn’t sound like he did anything illegal.

I’d likely slice my fingers off

Thursday, February 19th, 2009

But it would be done with panache, if I were working with one of these high-end Japanese kitchen knives. Not that I could afford knives that cost that much, but I can dream, can’t I?

Cat 1, Dragon 0

Wednesday, February 18th, 2009

Cordwainer Smith wrote a well-known science fiction short story titled, “The Game of Rat and Dragon,” in which telepaths teamed with cats to protect spaceships from space-based predators.

The relationship between cats and dragons appears to have been taken from life.

I have a dragon skull that I had on display in my living room. It’s a cast resin sculpture that I picked up some years ago. It was on a high shelf on my entertainment center, where I figured it would be safe.

I was wrong.

Dragon skull

The missing small horn was with the skull; the missing large horn wasn’t. I believe that it’s under the entertainment center, which makes it pretty inaccessible. Guess I won’t be gluing that back anytime soon.

There’s an old Navy saying …

Monday, February 16th, 2009

A collision at sea can ruin your day.”

It can also ruin several careers. One of the “related content” articles says:

    One theory being considered was that their respective anti-sonar devices – which hide submarines – were just too effective in concealing one from the other.

Possible. Not necessarily likely. Both submarines are identified as SSBNs – ballistic missile launch platforms, rather than attack submarines. This means that, rather than actively “pinging” with their sonars and listening for echos, they were listening passively to what their sonar arrays were picking up.

Sound travels long distances and in funny ways in the ocean, and it’s not necessarily a very quiet environment. The article mentions rough seas – there was probably a lot of wave noise as background. Living things make a wide variety of sounds – for years, there was an unidentified noise that sonarmen referred to as “the A-train.” I believe it was eventually attributed to Minke whales, but I could be misremembering. The path sound takes in the ocean is dependent on water temperature, salinity, and pressure, and can curve in such a way that you could be travelling parallel to another vessel that is relatively close and never hear it. You could also hear it and think it’s in a different direction compared to where it really is.

There are also blind spots in a submarine’s sonar array. For one thing, you can’t hear behind you, both because the sonar array doesn’t usually have any elements pointing directly aft, and because any that point aft would mostly pick up your own propulsion sounds. Periodically, a submarine will “clear baffles” by putting a wiggle into its track, changing course for a minute or two so that the sonar will be able to “see” behind it, then coming back to its original course.

The description of the results of the collision leads me to believe that the French sub ran into the side of the British sub. I saw nothing to indicate what angle the collision occurred at. First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Jonathan Band said that it was a low-speed collision, so it was probably just bad luck. It could have been worse – much worse.

Returning from patrol, there comes a point when you no longer have to hide your presence, and are allowed to make more speed. There is a tendency to request “going-home turns” from the engine room. Had that been the case, with the French submarine coming up in the other sub’s baffles, the collision could have been much worse. I’m glad it wasn’t.

    Eternal Father, strong to save,
    Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
    Who biddest the mighty ocean deep
    Its own appointed limits keep;
    Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
    For those in peril on the sea!

UPDATE: Blackfive and Neptunus Lex have also reported on this story. The comments at Blackfive are more amusing, but the ones at Neptunus Lex are more informative.

On Handwriting

Sunday, February 15th, 2009

When I was young, I was taught script handwriting in grade school. We did the exercises with loops and such, and I learned to write legibly. I’ve lost a lot of that, mostly due to hurrying when I write. I have long admired people with elegant handwriting, though, and wished to improve my own.

In a recent search for handwriting tutorials, I found a book on the Palmer method, which seems to match the way I was taught, although this has much more depth than I recall from my lessons.

I don’t believe that you could use this book in schools today, though. The exercise at the top of this page would probably get any young man sent for counseling, if not suspended or expelled. I’m not certain what would happen to a young woman caught doing the exercise.

Want to see a chess machine in action?

Friday, February 13th, 2009

Try here. It’s interesting to see the move possibilities, but I don’t play chess well enough anymore to want to do much with it.

Via Bifurcated Rivets.

Sounds about right to me

Thursday, February 12th, 2009

House of Eratosthenes (The Blog That Nobody Reads) is one of my favorite sites. Morgan Freeberg has a way of looking at things (and of expressing himself) that I really enjoy. This, from one of his recent posts, really tickled me:

    I have a really thin paperback on my bookshelf. It’s called “Government plans to meddle in the economy, that worked.” It’s up there, sandwiched among “Republicans who survived scandals,” “democrats who didn’t” and “Movies made from video games that don’t suck.”

I did not know that

Thursday, February 12th, 2009

There are many interesting stories to be found related to the naming of things. I had not known that Julian Street in Denver had one of them.