Thursday, April 20, 2017

Small World

The Potomac River, from George Washington's Back Yard
The circumference of this small blue marble we inhabit is around 24,901 miles, depending on where you measure it I suppose. From Leiden, in the Netherlands, to Plymouth, Massachusetts is around 3,441 miles, following a Great Circle Route.

It took the Mayflower 65 days to sail from Leiden to Plymouth, an average speed of around 2 knots. These days you can catch a flight from Logan and be in Schiphol in around 7 hours, less with a tail wind. (The distance is similar, 3,445 miles.) That's an average speed of about 492 miles per hour. A lot faster than in 1620, almost 400 years ago.

Back in George Washington's time, our first President counseled us to avoid foreign entanglements. It was sound advice at the time, we had two vast oceans separating us from Europe and Asia. While those oceans are still there, technology has made them a lot less vast.

My buddy Shaun had an interesting post on Wednesday which made me think. Things these days can seem pretty bad. As an historian (amateur though I am) I see things differently. While there are areas of the world you should avoid, those areas, in my estimation, are fewer than they were not all that long ago.

There have always been areas on the planet where the inhabitants were very xenophobic, often with good reasons. While it would be very dangerous for a Westerner to walk the streets of Mogadishu these days, it's also dangerous to be in certain American neighborhoods at certain times of day.

Now, don't think Detroit after dark if you're white, how about certain upscale neighborhoods at almost any time of day if you're black? It runs both ways.

Now 150 years ago, white or black, you didn't cross the Plains all by your lonesome or with a small group. The natives out that way were pretty annoyed with the newcomers who were starting to overrun their lands as those newcomers were done, for the moment, with slaughtering each other. The post Civil War era saw a lot of folks head west, seeking new lives. The people of the Plains weren't that thrilled to see them. So they killed them when they could.

Go further back in time and let's say you live in Europe. If the local land barons didn't own you and make you work their land for a pittance, they might just scoop you up into their feudal army to go fight some other land baron. Or perhaps it was off to the Holy Lands to fight the heathens.

Go further back in time and you have bands of nomads wandering about, if you had something they wanted, they took it. If you annoyed them, they killed you. Once they had a taste for that kind of thing, well, let's cross the river and see what's up in the next valley. More plunder, more women, horses, cattle, crops? They want it, they take it.

The Mongols, the Huns, the other nomadic tribesmen who were the scourge of their day. Mr. Bad Haircut, the head NORK, had nothing on them. In fact, he's an absolute piker when it comes to folks like Attila and Genghis Khan. Now those guys were real bad asses.

The world is a dangerous place. Always has been, it's easier and faster to get around now too. Which makes avoiding foreign entanglements a lot harder than it was in President Washington's day.

While I remain cautiously optimistic about the future, I do worry. Leaders have miscalculated in the past and gotten their nations into wars which made no sense in the long run.

I continue to hope that cooler heads prevail and that the bullies and lunatics of the world are restrained by those in a position to do so.

Without plunging the planet into more warfare.

Like I said, I remain optimistic, but I find myself praying these days. A lot.

May God have mercy on us all.




32 comments:

  1. Whatever happens, we have got
    The Atom Bomb, and they have not.
    ~Hilaire Belloc (give or take)

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    1. That is an outdated thought. We have used the Atom Bomb, and they have not (yet).

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    2. I'm aware of these things, I just couldn't think of a better plug-in with the right number of syllabobbles.

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    3. a bear - you get mad style points, even if it's not entirely accurate.

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    4. It's perhaps even more fitting that the work those famous lines are taken from ["The Modern Traveller"] is a humorous satire of the wealthy Victorian "explorer." Things like faking rhino attack photos with a stuffed rhino -- because nobody'd buy the book if it didn't have photos! He also drives another rhino away by making eye contact and staring at it in a determined, British way. Heh.

      So it's not clear to me that the Maxim Gun lines were even intended to be taken seriously in their own time (1898) since they were uttered by a caricature. (The narrator's companions are named Blood and Sin.)

      All of which I've been learning today, since Ron said that. Had to go back and check some things. Can you tell that my job is going swimmingly?

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    5. The illustrations are also quite fabulous. (The casual racism, not so much.) So, scratch that. It's QUITE clear they were NOT to be taken seriously.

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    6. Now I remember where I'd heard those lines before! (Job going swimmingly? Sounds like my world some days.)

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    7. The casual racism of the Victorian era. Seen it before.

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  2. Harsh view of the lessons of history. Adapt, get stronger, fight,or get rolled over. Occasional miracles, the USA, but will last only as long as it is defended.

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    1. Hobbes' "state of nature" -

      In such condition there is no place for industry, because the fruit thereof is uncertain, and consequently no culture of the earth, no navigation nor the use of commodities that may be imported by sea, no commodious building, no instruments of moving and removing such things as require much force, no knowledge of the face of the earth, no account of time, no arts, no letters, no society, and which is worst of all, continual fear and danger of violent death, and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.

      For the most part, civilization is a very good thing. If left to our own devices, we're all brutes.

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    2. Thomas Sowell once referred to one of his classmates as "Nasty, British and short".

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  3. I'm not a professional sailor, although I did captain a 16' sailboat around Hickam Harbor and occasionally Pearl Harbor. While stationed at the Pentagon, we toured Jamestown where they had replicas of the ships the settlers used. Unbelievably small was my impression. As a pilot, I assumed they (Mayflower/Susan Constant, Godspeed and Discovery (Jamestown boats) would use the shortest possible distance (Great Circle Route). However, they actually sailed south almost to Africa and then across the Atlantic and then North to their destination, as that is the direction the winds flow in the Atlantic. I thought that was interesting as well as a "well, DUH! They're sailboats." moment

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    1. The story of Kon-Tiki was fascinating, also being totally at the mercy of the wind.

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    2. Juvat - as the Mayflower could, in theory, make 12 knots, doing the Great Circle Thing would have been faster, but yes, the old sailing ships were at the mercy of the wind and the current. I kinda sorta neglected to mention that. Thanks for having my six.

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    3. Kon-Tiki, I had forgotten that story. That was pretty awesome.

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  4. In general things are safer than in days of old, and we have less assholes to deal with, the scary thing is the efficiency of today's means of destruction that current assholes can utilize.

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    1. Good point Joe. The assholes do indeed have better hardware these days.

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  5. My greatest anxiety regarding the continued existence of our nation is the character of her citizens. The schools are teaching propaganda in ALL classes, the media is for all intents and purposes anti-civilization propaganda, and a clearly large majority of the people believe that they are property of the government and the president is king. Now we've got trump as president, only because a felon couldn't quite steal the election. Americans are so "overworked" and so "busy" that they can't be bothered. They've got to make sure their kids start adulthood with only crushing debt and a devalued piece of parchment from a major reeducation camp, you see. At the rich end there are no rules or laws. Those who inhabit the belly of the inner city and other bastions of relative poverty are wards of the king and are classified, officially mind you, as voting monkeys. The upside is that American sovereign citizens can steer the boat back on course. But it'll only happen at 2kts, vice 500kts. That doesn't match up with the "this old house" project timeline, so it probably won't happen. I HOPE I'm wrong, and I'm safe and protected regardless, but I'm just trying to be objective.

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    1. There are scary times ahead, I hope we weather the storm.

      But if not, no one can say that they weren't warned.

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    2. Cowman- parchment from a major reeducation camp! Hilarious, and sad. Your whole comment is pretty sobering. As to your walking dead points elsewhere- who the hell are these people? Don't they have jobs? Protesting? Even if I wanted to, I have to go to work so I don't have the time or the desire to protest. STFU and get a job is what I say to them, maybe a little more fistfully than they'd like.

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    3. And the 2kt course corrections? We need them at 500kts, but I'm afraid the 2kts is far slower than the winds blowing us off course, to the effect that we'll sink before the it's too late.

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    4. I also liked the "parchment from a major reeducation camp" comment. I am a firm believer in "not everyone needs to go to college, or should."

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    5. For the last eight years it felt like no one was at the wheel.

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  6. We were fine as a nation in not getting too involved in international affairs as long as the rest of the world left us alone. Unfortunately, sometime after the US Civil War, other nations and their problems began to really become our problems, and, as usual, we (the US) had to overreact and then we end up where we are now. (Yeah, a brief synopsis of a rather vast, overly complicated issue, but that's what it all boils down to.)

    Now, if we had supported the Kaiser in WWI like we should have instead of the Sax-Gothas... Or better yet, not helped anyone on either side and just gone and really taken care of the Mexico issue once and for all (stick it to Pancho Villa and all the other raiders and corrupt officiales that caused that issue,) well, who knows?

    Unfortunately, we are back into a world where "Duck and Cover" drills are not too far off, maybe even the Civil Defense program restarted (and all those shelters reactivated) and citizen awareness of 'international can mean right here' is on a significant rise (except for the Clinton Archipelago.)

    It was weird, those few years after the fall of the Soviet Union, to not be concerned as to the primary, secondary or tertiary strike status of the spot I was currently occupying. (When my dad was first stationed at Vandenberg, he rented a house in Santa Maria, and later told us kids that the hills will help 'with the weather.') Now, thanks to the local nuclear cow lizard college and the mass of morons there, I live on the outskirts of a 1st strike location for international hooliganism of one sort or another. Thankfully I don't have to near the habitable areas the local reds (yes, Reds. Got into a shouting match with a card-carrying commie professor more than once) control very often.

    And, yes, I pray now like I prayed when living on primary targets during the deep part of the Cold War. I pray our leaders have the fortitude to shut down foreign idiots (not like the previous administration - not to name any names or point fingers (cough, cough.)) I pray that calmer minds prevail within the rank and file of the oppressors, so that our rank and file won't be forced to react (which never turns out well.) I pray that if none of the above happens, mayhaps nature or a random rock from upstairs will stonk the problem for us.

    Actually, I find myself praying much more these days. The evil overlords of the USSR were at least somewhat sane, unlike the legion of nutburgers in charge everywhere.

    Man, I picked the wrong time to re-read Tom Kratman's "Caliphate." Just finished it (again) and I read the news and then your post. (You know it's bad out there when the MSM are reporting international stuff like it's as bad as it actually is. YIKES!!!) I think I'll steer away from the whole Baen bookshelf and find some mindless happy fluff to clear the dark thoughts. (And, God, if you're listening, please let Le Pen win (and survive to take control of) France. PLEASE???)

    Maybe I'll jump back into the first part of the New Testament and stop right before "Revelations", which reads much like the MSM these days... Sigh.

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    1. Wow. Great comment Andrew.

      There are days when I too miss the big bad Soviets. At least they were somewhat rational actors.

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  7. I have nothing good to add to this comment thread, so I'll just say: Stay as safe as you can, y'all.

    Paul L. Quandt

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  8. I'm hoping the bad times stay in abeyance for another six years, so I can hit retirement and establish a rural and defensible compound out on the high desert...and all of my friends will be welcome, of course.

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Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)