21 Mar 2017
Salomon Verveer, City Scene
No title or date with this one. It’s almost certainly the Jewish Quarter of the Hague, painted around 1862. Like most of Verveer’s stuff, it’s Romanticist in appeal and photo-realist in design, a winning combination.
Every seasoned engineer adores simplicity. Where there is no failure mode, there is no failure. Complexity is, in itself, even while just sitting there being agreeable, an enemy in waiting.
Simplicity and versatility are nearly the same thing. Consider the knife, for instance. Consider cordage. Simple and versatile. As Heinlein said, specialization is for insects. When something is made complex, tradeoffs must be made, which forecloses or reduces options. Follow this far enough and the item becomes so specialized it’s useless for anything other than one narrow purpose.
Simplicity improves nearly anything. A spear, perhaps cut from a straight sapling, sharpened and fire hardened, appears to be a single-use tool, but it’s also a walking stick, a test probe for iffy ground, a cudgel, an aid in crossing fast-running water and more. The GPS system may go down, or your receiver may, but a compass is always reliable. Simple recipes using few ingredients, the best use of your resources and storage space, can be used as-is or altered with additives of opportunity.
Your battle rifle deserves the simplicity treatment. It can be optimized for only one thing and that thing should be gunfights at medium range. Fit it with a low power, wide field scope that can survive the jackhammer test, backed up by iron sights you’ve zeroed-in and practiced using. Put together a rifle for precision work at long range if you must, don’t compromise your battle rifle, it should be simple, absolutely reliable, and never need batteries.
In “ordinary” times, the mail and not much imagination is a simple, secure enough option for sensitive communication. A greeting card with a personal note, say. In times of chaos, an AM-FM radio, a scanner and a short wave receiver are good for gathering valuable information. For local two-way communication in a catastrophic collapse, ordinary citizen’s band or FRS/GMRS radios suffice. Exotic stuff gets exotic attention. Consult your neighborhood radio enthusiast for details. But beware, radio transmissions are an irretrievable breach of security, however you do it.
Simplicity counts most for the man on the move in sketchy times. Your flashlight should be simple, rugged and small. Retina-blasting high lumens are seldom necessary, “moonlight” mode is most useful in deep survival. Fixed power, compact binoculars do what binoculars are meant to do, add-on features are for clubhouse cachet. The fishing gear in your pack should be simple and basic—assume you can cut a fishing pole if needed—with quadruple backed up everything. Braided line ages better than monofilament, and small hooks can catch big fish but big hooks can’t catch small fish. Think it through.
Simple means less maintenance. Your stuff should give more service than it gets. Simple is more versatile, a tarp versus a tent for instance. And simple means fewer things to go wrong.
I’ve been looking at the Big Picture of Europe in the last century, noodling with the arithmetic.
In World War I, the Great War of 1914—1918, there were more than 11,000,000 European military casualties. “Casualties” means deaths. “European” means the United Kingdom less India, the Entente Powers which includes the US but less Japan, and the Central Powers less the Ottoman Empire. Civilian casualties totaled 747,000.
In World War II, 1939—1945, there were 20,550,000 European military casualties and 20,776,000 European civilian casualties.”European” as above, also less Japan and China.
Totals for both wars comes to 31,550,000 military and 21,523,000 civilian casualties, which is more than 53,000,000 million European casualties over a span of thirty-one years.
It matters who won the two world wars of course, but Europe itself was defeated. No one dares to even think “make Germany great again” or “UK UK UK” or “France first”. Europe remains defeated in mind and spirit. Does anyone imagine the ancient tribes of Europe—the Remii, Belgii, Sigrambi, Ubii, Usipetes, Ambivariti, Helvetii, Tencteri, et al—would invite hundreds of thousands of foreigners to occupy their lands, then house them and feed them even as they raped and plundered the place.
If Europeans ever again conduct war at anything like this scale, it had better be something other than killing each other’s young, fit men and their families.
From Island Conservation, an outfit that protects island ecosystems from all but certain destruction by introducing non-native species:
All native species—not only those on islands and mountaintops—lack a co-evolutionary history with species from elsewhere. This is why non-native species are far more likely to cause ecological damage than native ones (up to 40 times more likely in comprehensive reviews of data). Further, the relatively new science of invasion biology is not yet adept at predicting which non-natives will cause problems, and many non-natives that ultimately become invasive do so only after long time lags and in unpredictable ways.
From Alexander Hamilton, The Examination Number VIII, 1802, on the subject of immigration:
The influx of foreigners must, therefore, tend to produce a heterogeneous compound; to change and corrupt the national spirit; to complicate and confound public opinion; to introduce foreign propensities. In the composition of society, the harmony of the ingredients is all important, and whatever tends to a discordant intermixture must have an injurious tendency. The United States have already felt the evils of incorporating a large number of foreigners into their national mass; it has served very much to divide the community and to distract our councils, by promoting in different classes different predilections in favor of particular foreign nations, and antipathies against others. It has been often likely to compromise the interests of our own country in favor of another.
The quote of the week comes from a comment by “Enkidu” at the Washington Times, in defense of the individual right to keep and bear arms rather than being restricted to militias:
Debbie McKee is the Executive Vice President of McKee Foods, the eighty year old, still family run company that makes baked treats. Oh yes, you know her. In the late 1950s the packaging director of McKee Foods needed a marketing gimmick to juice sales. He noticed the picture of his granddaughter on his desk and the Little Debbie brand was born. Same Debbie. Read the full story here .
You may ask, what are the odds she’d grow up to be the Executive VP? And I’d give you my standard answer, one out of one. Obviously. Are and were. Extract the generalized form, then use it in conversation when you need to give the deserving a time-tested verbal foot stomp.
Okay fellow untouchables, enough aimless blather, we’ve gotta leave some of our soul to be corroded by outrages to come, otherwise why bother? Let’s get to things so profound they’re causing random high tides, planetary perturbations and odd bird behavior in small towns across America, as reported here in yer ol’ Woodpile Report.
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