Thursday, 31 March 2011

Asimov Revisited.

Ok so I have read more of the Foundation Trilogy and I have to say that the bit where the galactic empire invaded the Foundation and buggared off again doesn't seem so bad.

The second half of "The Empire and Foundation" and the first half of "The Second Foundation", are quite appealing.

I won't say they are completely free of deus ex machina or that they are literary masterpieces, but I have been enchanted by the concepts in them.

Firstly, the concept of psychologists/sociologists being good administrators. That is just excellent.
I love that idea, and wish it were used in real life. Imagine if our world was run by psychologists and sociologists, there would be no wars; any disagreements could be resolved by an hour on the couch talking about one's childhood.

Indeed, the Second Foundation which is run by psychologists and sociologists is quite a happy empire. The leadership knows exactly how to keep a population happy, even if they are dirt poor and living in hovels.
Furthermore, expansion of the empire is easy since all it takes is a few words to manipulate world leaders into joining the empire.

I think Asimov may have pushed the boundaries of plausibility with the emotional manipulation that does not require words, but I'll let that slide, it is science fiction after all.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Mandatory Daily Post

I don't feel like posting today. Just thought I would let you know.
I am tired, exhausted, spent. I may take this moment to write a few lines about the blog though.

Initially this blog got up off the ground quickly but then there was a hiatus in early march and it pretty much died. But know my readership is strong again, and all it took was some consistent blogging. It is nothing flash, something like 50 views a day, but that is more than I imagined. A lot of readers don't post but hey, that's expected, I myself browse many good blogs without making comment simply because I am lazy, I guess my readership is lazy too. That's ok. I don't mind.

The point is, I am not blogging to a brick wall. Someone cares about my opinions and they are the 50 or so of you who each day read my blog.

Thank you.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Asimov and Socio-economics of an Empire

So I just finished reading "The Foundation and Empire" after reading the first book of Isaac Asimov's foundation trilogy.

It was interesting but to be honest I was a little bit disappointed. The first book was excellent but the second seemed... mundane.

The whole series has a predeterministic theme to it. And while it is a little bit bothersome how the Foundation is saved again and again by the deus ex machina of Seldon's Psychohistory, it is not a show stopper. Not until the Foundation is saved from the Empire by the Emperor's own paranoia.

It is all a bit contrived.

It is worse though... In previous "Seldon Crises", the Foundation faced a problem then solved it. When the Foundation was surrounded by low tech belligerents, he played them off against each other and then used religion to subvert them. When the Foundation faced an aggressor with atomic weapons, the Foundation bought them to their knees through trade embargoes. But when the Foundation got invaded by the Empire, they just did nothing. And the Imperial forces eventually left of their own accord.

Just who does Isaac Asimov think he is trying to kid?

It is ridiculous, what is even more ridiculous is that Asimov could have ended it in a perfectly good way with historically correct justification for it.

By that stage the Foundation was an economic superpower. Historically,economic superpowers don't just lie down in face of a military aggressor. First they try to bribe them (which the foundation did, kudos to you on that one, Asimov) and then after that they use their whopping treasury to spam a military.

One classic case is the various city states of Milan and Venice in the Middle Ages. Most of them didn't have much of a standing army and so would resort to raising vast mercenary armies whenever they got attacked.

I could raise countless more examples.

As history tells us, the economic power may not win all the battles but eventually they win the war, because they can easily replace their losses.

Considering their technological and economic superiority, The Foundation should have been able to raise a death-fleet faster than the Empire could invade their planets, and once a stalemate occurred then the war would become a war of attrition and the Foundation would undoubtedly crush the imperial aggressors.

It would have been perfect to the theme of the story too; that of a budding empire (the Foundation) learning vital lessons on how to grow and maintain control. First there was the importance of religion, then economy and finally the importance of military.

 Instead, the Foundation is as weak ever and all because Isaac Asimov is ignorant of the importance of military protection.

Monday, 28 March 2011


I think it's about time to address the old taboo topic of religion again...

As you may already know, I consider myself an agnostic, but what does this mean?

For many people it means that they are undecided on the issue of religion, for others it means that they believe in a god but don't know who or what that god is.

For me, I prefer the literal meaning of the word. Gnossis is greek for knowing and the prefix "a" means "without".
 So I am without knowing. Which is absolutely true.

I think sometimes the term "agnostic" is used as a derogatory term to describe to people who don't wish to be embroiled in the epic war of Christianity vs atheism. Fair enough, the are not far from the truth. But that does not detract from the true philosophy behind it, which is "we don't know".

It is a solid belief system because it is based on the premise that it is impossible to prove or disprove god, therefore the existence of god cannot be known. Whereas religion proves the existence of god through fallacious methods and atheism happily rebuts said fallacious arguments by pointing out the holes of their logic (which is usually ignored by the theists as they return to their old arguments).

As strong as the atheist position is, they never actually disprove the existence of god in their arguments. They cannot. It's like disproving the existence of a chocolate teapot floating somewhere in space. It cannot be done.
What they can do is disprove the major religions, because they have holy books filled with all sorts of statements that can be disproved.

But that is not the same as disproving god. For all we know the Flying Spaghetti Monster is out there, controlling our destinies with his divine noodly appendage.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Can Do Campbell Campaign

So far I have mainly commented on international politics, as such I feel I have neglected the politics of my native land.
First, though, here is a bit of background on Australian politics. Australia's political system is a "Constitutional Monarchy", or at least that's what the taught me at school. It is a monarchy because the Queen of England is our head of state and it is constitutional because we have a constitution. In practice though we are a republic. Since Federation all the executive decisions have been made by representatives of the people of Australia; ie the Australian Parliament.

Several years ago there was a referendum on whether Australia to become a republic, to which Australians voted a unanymous "NO". I suspect this was due to a combination of people already knowing we are in practice a republic but also because of the popularity of such fun figures like Prince Harry "Pothead", Prince Willy or our beloved Queen.

Which is interesting because while the english royalty are quite popular in Australia, our own politicians are not. Perhaps in America, popularity of the President is buoyed up by patriotism, but in Australia the politicians are loathed and the more power they wield, the stronger the loathing.

Often the hatred is just. For example Julia Gillard first got into power as Prime Minister by backstabbing Kevin Rudd, Within a week Rudd was ousted by the Labor Party and Gillard had the throne. Australia was in shock. Kev may have been sinking in the polls but, all of us still remembered when he was the Aussie battler saving us from evil old Johnnie Howard and delivering the Aborigines their much longed apology from the government. That's not all though...

When it came to the election, the polls were dead even and it was a hung parliament. Both candidates from the major parties were seen as utter disgraces, not fit to run the country. Instead of going back to the polls, however, The labor party under Gillard's leadership bribed the required independants to win another term in office.

Sometimes though, the hatred isn't just, but I think that being skeptical of politicians is the best way to treat them.

In queensland the labor party has had a long stranglehold over the state. First it was Peter Beattie and then Anna Bligh. Both of them are despised but they stayed in office because the opposition seemed just as bad. Better the devil you know, I guess.

Suddenly there is a new alternative. "Can do"  Campbell Newman, Lord Mayor of Brisbane has decided to run for Premier. Unlike other high profile politicians, Can do Campbell is not hated at all. Part of this is due to his competency but part of it no doubt comes from the fact that he has not become premier yet.

Just like Kevin Rudd was the Aussie battler against evil old John Hoaward, and just like little Johnnie Howard himself was the david against the goliath of Paul Keating ~10 years earlier, Can Do Campbell is the underdog fighting for the people.

I do hope he succeeds though. For if he does not win the state election, we will have to suffer another term of labour and it is not healthy for any government to remain in the hands of any one party for too long.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

The Sword -A Brief History

It has been a while since I blogged about war. But rather than talk about war itself let's look at one of the tools of war and how they are used.

Swords are obsolete nowadays, but they have been around for well over 4000 years and for most of that time they were the primary symbol of raw military power.

I'm not going to move onto the specific types of swords, not when you can just look them up so easily on wikipedia. 

In some ways we are lucky to have moved on beyond such crude tools of battle; I can't imagine how it would feel to spend second after second and possibly minute after minute trying to hack away at your opponent until he died. But maybe "hack" isn't the right word for it.

The styles of swordplay vary with the sword and the culture of people who are using them. Unfortunately over the centuries that sowrd shave been redundant, much of the art is lost. By and large the eastern swordsmanship lives on, but the european styles are lost to us. Some may argue that sport fencing lives on, but sport fencing does not in the least part represent european medieval fighting styles.

I do know (or at least I think I know) some of the basics...
It does depend on  your opponent and your own sword/armor/skill so lets firstly categorise it by armor and weapon:
1.two handed sword and full plate mail vs two handed sword and full plate mail
In this kind of a fight most succesful combatants aimed at unbalancing their opponent. If you could get your opponent to fall, then they would not be able to get up again in that heavy armor without help. Then it's just a matter of dealing the killing blow with a thrust between their plates (like the neck).
Another tactic was to unbalance your opponent such that you could then physically grab or knock off their helm and strike their head.

2.short sword and shield vs anything
The short sword and shield combo was made famous by the romans but lived on into the medieval ages where the saxxons used it to great effect with their shield walls.
This kind of set up of course works best in formation since a shield only provides protection in one direction, and so one's flanks can be a vulnerability. The basic principle of this style though is to used the shield to get up close and then to use the short sword for quick thrusts in between (or underneath) the shield/s. It's very effective.

3.light armor and sword vs light armor and sword.  When no armor is involved, swordplay can be a bit more direct than with armor. Unbalancing your opponent is still a good strategy but the end goal is to either deliver a killing cut or thrust or if you cannot manage to do either then just keep giving them nicks on their arms and legs until they slowly bleed to death. In some ways the latter tactic is easier since strikes on the extremities don't put the attacker off balance, whereas killing blows do. If an attacker makes a cutting strike and is parried then he himself is now off balance and the defender can essentially take a pot shot.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011


I'm going to run with the last post I made, but this time I'm not going to get so personal :P

So last post I emoted about the tribulations of being part of a genetic relay race.

That's just one tiny little branch of the vast tree of humanity though. The branch may die out but the tree itself won't die so easily and in fact still has a fair amount of growing to do.

As a species we are dynamic and we change as fast as our environment does, which is good because we are changing our environment at a rapid pace. If you don't believe me then simply look around you, look at the demographics. The global human population is still increasing (although the rate at which it is increasing is actually decreasing). And the biological prerogative of any species (plant, virus, animal, you name it) is to propagate.

What fascinates me though is the age group which is doing all the adapting. I know my grandpa is not adapting, as smart as he is. That is purely anecdotal evidence, but I think we can all agree that in general the elderly are generally incapable of adapting to our dynamic environment.

The opposite extreme is little kids. In some ways they are the most adaptable, babies absorb spoken language like sponges. They are the quickest to learn and assimilate new knowledge. But unfortunately babies cannot survive on their own, they are adaptable but the adaptation is adapting from helplessness, they still have a fair way to go.

Somewhere beteen the ages of 8 and 60 I think is where most of the adaptative survival skills are in place and working. I start at 8 years old because I know that in many third world countries, the family unit is somewhat of a geratocracy with all the little kiddies looking after their parents. And certainly there are enough 8 year old soldiers In the nastier places of the world, too many in my opinion, but the point is, that they survive.

Physically, a man (or woman) reaches his/her physical peak at about 18. So physically this is where we are most physically adaptable. However in the western world the threats are more pyschological than physical. Instead of having to dodge bullets you have to dodge taxes and lay-offs. And in some western countries the ramifications for not being able to outwit your fellow man can be quite deadly if there is no welfare system in place.

In some ways the 20 year olds are most adapatable here; their brains are fully developed and their social skills honed from years of dealing with bullies and classmates. But the older generations have a key advantage, for starters, they have a lot more experience (although at some age that experience becomes obsolete with the changing world), but most of all they don't have to adapt so much because they have more monetary resources. If taxes rise then the rich can afford to pay, but the poor HAVE to change their ways lest they starve. Same if they lose their job.

So again it seems it is the young (and possibly the poor) are doing most of the adapting.

As such I look forward to growing old and not having to be so adaptable and also so I can do this:

Tuesday, 22 March 2011


Alright guys, I know I said I would update my blog every day, but I guess I lied.

I had a good reason though, I was babysitting my grandpa all of yesterday. I only just dropped him off at the airport  a couple of hours ago.

It wasn't particularly difficult or arduous, I had my oldest sister there to entertain him too. Actually my sister is the one who conscripted me to help her.

He is getting pretty old now, well into his 80's. Whereas my sister and myself are about a quarter of his age.

It made me think though. See, my grandpa has a lot of grand daughters but only two grandsons with his surname and one of those grandsons is myself. The other one is one of my younger cousins.

So the legacy continues. The females in the family are all doing their part, producing more offspring and spreading the family autosomes and X chromosomes. The latest generation of men in the family are a different story though.
 My cousin hasn't even come of age yet, and as for myself? Well im a blogging bum who has not bred. I am close to the bottom of the socio-economic strata with nobody to carry on my legacy. Lucky for me I still have a few years in me left.
This is in comparison to my old man who is insanely rich. I will never see a cent of it though on account of my stepmum and half sisters. Right now I actually owe my old man money.

I'm long past bitching about such things though. My duty is to accept the reality then work within it to slowly turn my dreams into reality. This is a handicap, nothing more. All it means is that instead of being a multimillionaire with 10 mansions all with extensive seraglios by the age of 40, I will have to content myself a net worth of half a mil with a pretty average house and a bitchy wife.

I couldn't help but feel guilty yesterday though. I am the heir to the family y chromosome and I am struggling. Once my old man has died, I am the dynasty and if I go nowhere with my life the dynasty will be bankrupt. And if I bear no male children the family name dies with me. Unless of course my cousin becomes a tycoon/casanova. I can only hope.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Libya And Japan

First may I just say, that this blog is back!

 And promise to update it daily from now on. Just do me a favour and read it every now and then and comment, so that I know my blog isn't falling on deaf ears :P

So what do Libya and Japan have in common?
Geographically they are on opposite sides of the world, but temporally it is arguably a different story. Both have undergone massive change in a short amount of time.

 That said so have many places in the world, but in Australian News the rebellion in Libya and the Sendai Earthquake/Tsunami (and Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant Crisis) have received the most attention.

I have a few strong opinions regarding Libya. 
Firstly, while I empathise with the view that nations should not interfere with the internal affairs of other nations, I do support UN Resolution 1973.
It is not right for us to sit by while people are needlessly killed because of their political views. If the rebels were simply being arrested and imprisoned then I could understand. But killing another human being is a crime against humanity and should not be tolerated, regardless of cultural differences.

When it comes to the earthquake in Japan I have an equally strong view. A lot of people seem to think the Japanese deserved what they got because of the bombing of Pearl Harbour in World War 2.
And it is not just Americans either, I have seen my own fellow countrymen condemn the Japanese on account of their whaling enterprises.

I believe that anyone who can sincerely approve of the deaths of thousands and the dispossesion of millions for ANY reason whatsoever is an insensitive prick. To say the least.