Monday, 2 May 2016

Our local Death Star has a weasel infestation

Dammit, how is any evil genius megalomaniac supposed to go about smashing electrons together at light-speed in order to create a world-destroying superweapon re-create the conditions that existed at the start of the Universe, if those damn weasels insist on chewing through the freakin' power cables?!
GENEVA (AP) — It’s one of the physics world’s most complex machines, and it has been immobilized – temporarily – by a weasel. 
Spokesman Arnaud Marsollier says the world’s largest atom smasher, the Large Hadron Collider at CERN outside of Geneva, has suspended operations because a weasel invaded a transformer that helps power the machine and set off an electrical outage on Thursday night. 
Authorities say the incident was one of several small glitches that will delay plans to restart the $4.4 billion collider by a few days.  
Marsollier says Friday that the weasel died – and little remains of it.
The weasel it was that died, eh? Who needs some knucklehead farm-boy in an X-wing- apparently we can destroy Death Stars just by chucking weasels at them!

Indeed, I'm pretty sure that was the plot summary of one of the early, thankfully cancelled, drafts of the original STAR WARS screenplay.

Oh well. At least now we can all rest assured that humanity's attempts to create the most spectacular light show this side of a quasar can be carried out in peace.

Sunday, 1 May 2016

4th Generation Warfare and its discontents

These days, it's a $1.2 BILLION bomber

I finished reading The 4th Generation Warfare Handbook by William S. Lind and Lt. Gen. Gregory A. Thiele (USMC, Ret.) a few days ago. It was a rather interesting distillation of wisdom and ideas from two of the finest military historians and thinkers anywhere on the planet. Yet reading through that manual on warfare and counterinsurgency tactics actually left me with almost as many questions as answers.

And in the process of reading that book, along with some of the more trenchant criticisms of the concept of "manoeuvre warfare" (yes, that is the correct way to spell it- remember, I still speak English, not American), I find myself wondering whether the concepts of 4th Generation Warfare are actually as intellectually sound as they seem.


The basic theory of 4th Generation Warfare comes from what Mr. Lind calls "the 4GW canon". According to him, if you read these books in order from first to last, you will be taken through the history of his four generations of warfare. By the time you get to the end of it, if you still don't get it, there is something so fundamentally wrong with you that even the US Marine Corps' own drill sergeants couldn't get you to comprehend it:
  1. The Enlightened Soldier by C. E. White
  2. The Seeds of Disaster by Robert Doughty
  3. Stormtroop Tactics by Bruce Gudmundsson
  4. Command or Control? by Martin Samuels
  5. The Breaking Point by Robert Doughty
  6. Fighting Power by Martin Van Creveld
  7. The Transformation of War by Martin Van Creveld
To these books, I would add Mr. Lind's own highly influential works: On War: The Collected Columns of William S. Lind, his novel Victoria, his columns at and, the transcript of his speech, "The Four Generations of Modern War", and of course his latest book on the subject. All of them are easy to read, well-written, and exceptionally persuasive in making the case for both manoeuvre warfare and 4GW concepts.

Interestingly, though, you don't have to read the books in his canon in order to understand what he's talking about. I have read two of those seven and plan to read the rest over the coming months. If you just read the 7th book, and a few of Mr. Lind's books and articles, you'll immediately get what he's on about- and you'll instantly understand precisely why 4GW theory makes so much sense.

The entire theory of 4GW comes down to a few simple, easily understood, but profound ideas.

The Clausewitzian Trinity

First, the old Clausewitzian trinity of people, army, and state is breaking down, and with that breakdown we are seeing a return to older, privatised, decentralised forms of warfare that the Western world in particular has not really seen in some 350 years.

This requires some slight explanation for those who are unfamiliar with the term, trinitarian warfare. Basically, prior to the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648, many different private and public entities fought wars. It was common for powerful families, corporations, and religious orders to hire mercenaries or arm themselves and ride forth to fight their enemies. Warfare was decentralised, spread out from the control of governments.

But after the treaty, the power to make war was almost completely concentrated into the hands of governments everywhere. The very idea of private citizens or organisations waging war was outlawed; there is a reason why armed gangs are enemies of modern society, and why corporations who hire private mercenaries to carry out their "dirty deeds done dirt cheap", as it were, are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. This is also why private military organisations like Blackwater are viewed with extreme suspicion and hostility by the general public and by the government.

In Vom Kriege, which Mr. Van Creveld closely analyses in his book The Transformation of War, the Prussian general and military historian Carl von Clausewitz tied together the politics of war with the morality of war and began to require military leaders to think beyond the mere tactical and logistical frames of warfare. Fundamental to von Clausewitz's theory was the notion that war was only "moral" and easily winnable when all three legs of his "trinity" supported it.

Fight a war without the support of the people, and you will lose, as your supplies and pool of soldiers willing to fight dwindles down to nothing.

Fight a war without the support of the military, and you will find yourself fighting your own people even as you try to fight those of your enemy.

Fight a war without the support of the state, and you will find yourself crushed by the far greater weight of your opponent's forces.

Each leg of this trinity depends on the others. One cannot have a successful state without appearing "legitimate" in the eyes of the people and the army. One cannot have a strong army without support from the state and a pool of volunteers (or conscripts) from the people. One cannot have a successful and vital people without the protection of the state and the use of the army to defend the principles and values of that state.

But in modern times, as the people lose trust in governments and the legitimacy of the state declines at an ever-accelerating rate, that trinity is increasingly breaking down. And with that breakdown comes the re-emergence of far more ancient forms of warfare that the world has not seen in centuries, and which modern armies have an extraordinarily difficult time handling.

David Versus Goliath

Second, the moral level of war is once again becoming far and away the most important one.

Col. John Boyd- perhaps the greatest fighter pilot that the US Air Force ever produced, and without question one of the most influential military thinkers the world has ever seen- categorised warfare into three "levels": the physical, the mental, and the moral. An entity that fails on a lower level, but succeeds on a higher level, will in this framework almost always win over an enemy that succeeds on a lower level but fails on a higher one.

The application to modern warfare is immediate and obvious. State-led militaries, such as the US Army and Marine Corps, truly excel at the physical level of war- the "killing people and breaking things" level, the one in which the US military's high-speed, high-tech, steel-on-target way of fighting makes everyone and everything else look slow and stupid by comparison.

But state-led militaries appear to absolutely stink at winning on the moral level of war- the "hearts and minds" level.

Nowhere has this been made more clear than in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Repeatedly, American forces which were qualitatively vastly superior to their enemies would win tactical and operational engagements by killing their enemies and destroying their havens- but would rapidly lose the support of the local populations in doing so. And ultimately, each of those wars ended in either stalemate or defeat.

Indeed, there is a persuasive and powerful case to be made that the United States of America has not actually truly achieved victory- crushing, outright, total victory- in a single war that it has fought since WWII.

America, and the West in general, keeps losing because ultimately, state-led warfare always comes down to the giant with spear and shield against the teenager with a sling. And in such situations, it is human nature to want the teenager to win.

Outward Versus Inward

Third, modern state-led militaries have become more inwardly focused than ever.

The job of any military, Western or otherwise, is to defend the nation and its people- at least, that is the case under the old, "Trinitarian" way of war. A military machine that is relentlessly focused on this task will not have the time or patience to indulge in counterfactual stupidities such as: allowing and even encouraging women to serve in front-line combat roles; allowing homosexuals to serve openly among heterosexual line troops; concentrating on having the "greenest" bases and facilities instead of the most efficient or combat-ready; and investing billions and even trillions of dollars in over-hyped, overly-expensive, and actually ineffective "stealth" technology.

A military that focuses on pomp and circumstance over skill and substance, obsesses over hierarchy, succumbs to the latest political fads, or invests in technology just for the sake of technology, is a military designed for the specific purpose of losing wars.

The concept of an outwardly focused military builds directly into the theory of "manoeuvre warfare", an idea that is as central to the theories of fighting and winning 4th Generation wars as anything else I have outlined above.

Manoeuvre warfare essentially comes down to a set of tactics, operations, and strategies that focus on bypassing enemy strong points and attacking weak points, allowing for maximum individual initiative, and rewarding outcomes, not slavish devotion to hierarchy and order. The best-known example of this sort of thing is, of course, the German blitzkrieg of 1939-41, which brought so much of Europe under the Third Reich's dominion.

However, it is not the only example of well-planned and well-executed manoeuvre warfare. More recent examples arguably include General MacArthur's now-legendary landing behind enemy lines at Inchon, General Ariel Sharon's campaign in the Sinai in the Battle of Abu-Ageila during the Six Day War of 1967, and the "encirclement" tactic that destroyed much of the Iraqi Army and Republican Guard during Operation Desert Storm.

Fitting Theory to Fact

Obviously, there is far, far more to 4GW theory than what I have outlined above. It would take a lifetime of reading and understanding to come to a true and full knowledge of what 4GW is, why it is so effective as a form of warfare against centralised and hierarchical entities, and why Western civilisation in particular is having such a tremendously difficult time in fighting it.

Indeed, 4GW theory has been applied in practice many times over by non-military organisations and individuals- including yours truly- over the past few years, to great effect. As I had pointed out last year, #Gamergate was nothing if not a demonstration of 4GW tactics at their finest. 

However, the more I read into it, the more I am left with the uncomfortable feeling that the theory is not as rigourous as it should be.

On the surface, 4GW theory is an elegant exposition of key realities of modern warfare that simply makes sense. The basic concepts are simple and straightforward; any background reading done into each of the key assumptions and ideas behind the theory reveals that 4GW provides effective, though often counter-intuitive, answers to some of the most challenging and pressing questions facing modern militaries engaged in low-intensity conflicts around the world.

However, there is one part of 4GW theory that I believe requires far more scrutiny than it has received thus far. And that is the concept of manoeuvre warfare.

Within the canon of 4GW, it is assumed that fourth-generation actors can be pretty much anyone- not beholden to any particular state, nation, or ideology. This is precisely what we have seen in both Iraq and Afghanistan, where stateless bodies and individuals have moved to directly challenge the American military- often losing, badly, when it comes to the actual tactical military engagements, but still winning the war on the battlefields of opinion, morality, and credibility.

In order to fight such a decentralised enemy, the argument is made by 4GW proponents that the only possible response of trinitarian militaries is to move from centralised, top-down, inwardly-focused 2nd-Generation (i.e. French-style "command and conquer") militaries, to highly nimble, decentralised, outwardly-focused, results oriented 3rd-Generation militaries. And it is repeatedly stressed that building such a military is extraordinarily difficult- and keeping one such is even more so.

To support this argument, 4GW theorists always return to the examples of first the Prussian and then the German military, starting in 1806 with the catastrophic defeat suffered by the Prussians at the Battle of Jena-Auerstedt, and proceeding through into the early stages of WWII and the successful implementation of German blitzkrieg.

Yet these examples suffer from serious problems.

Decision Cycles

LTC Tom Kratman has done a considerably detailed analysis of Mr. Lind's Manoeurve Warfare Handbook, specifically with relation to the eight examples of battles or campaigns that met with the Boydian theory of manoeuvre warfare in which force commanders rapidly analysed and adjusted their tactics in response to new information through decentralised observation, orientation, decision, and action. In other words, LTC Kratman checked up on these 8 examples to see whether the OODA loop- central to the entire theory of 4GW warfare- was actually used the way that some of the strongest proponents of 4GW said they were.

His conclusion? Most of those examples had little, if anything, to do with OODA Loop-based manoeuvre warfare.

To be clear, there was a very great deal of manoeuvre going on- but most of it was pre-planned, very little of it was adjusted to meet the facts of the battle.

A critically important concept within the world of 4GW theory is the idea of "getting inside your opponent's decision-making cycle". This is how 4GW encounters are won or lost. The player that cycles through the available information the fastest and chooses the correct course of action the quickest is the one that wins- while the player that is "out-cycled" always finds himself playing catch-up, unable to get any read on what his opponent is trying to do, and unable to form any kind of coherent counter-strategy. No matter what he does, he is outfoxed and outmatched in every aspect of battle.

Or so the theory says, anyway. Does it actually work in real life?

I am not nearly military historian enough to figure that one out and come up with a definitive verdict. Fortunately, there are a number of truly great military historians out there who are equipped to judge the theory of manoeuvre warfare against the facts. And their verdict is... well, inconclusive at present, as far as I can tell.

Furthermore, the distinction that 4GW theorists love to make between Weberian or Westphalian states and non-state actors is, as far as I can tell, a deeply artificial one.

Consider: ISIS is an organisation that explicitly aims to be a state. Hell, it IS a state with actual territories held and an actual government organisation of some sort within those territories. It also sponsors terrorism through various decentralised affiliates, sponsors, and independent actors that have brainwashed themselves into thinking that an Islamic caliphate is a Good Thing.

Is ISIS therefore not engaged in 4th-Generation Warfare? Or is it? Where does one draw the line?

Furthermore, consider the United States government. We know for a fact that the US government fights wars of usurpation and interference in the Middle East through various militia and quasi-state proxies that it covertly funds. We know that the USA does this on top of its already active bombing campaigns in the third world. And there is good reason to think that this is happening both within and outside of the traditional command structures of the US military.

Is the US government therefore a 4GW entity? (Yes, I know, it's very hard to keep a straight face at that one.) Or is it one of those lumbering, clumsy, 2nd-Generation Trinitarian entities that doesn't stand a hope in hell of fighting an actual enemy that practices 4GW?

The evidence we have at hand tells us that both are true. Yet how can that be the case if both are mutually exclusive?

The only possible answer is that 4GW theory is therefore not quite as good a fit to the facts of the world before us as we would like to believe it to be. As with any theory, its merits must be examined carefully and weighed against the available evidence.

Never Fall in Love with a Good Theory

If nothing else, the lesson of 4GW theory is this: one must always question all assumptions that go into any grand strategic theory. Manoeuvre warfare is all well and good as a theory of warfighting. I do not question the US Marine Corps' adoption or use of it; everything I have seen tells me that there is tremendous merit to a doctrine that preaches speed, adaptation, individual initiative, and a results-oriented culture of achievement and merit. However, that does not mean that manoeuvre warfare is somehow the perfect cure for all that ails the US military today.

Moreover, as Robert A. Fry points out quite trenchantly in the article that I linked earlier, the doctrine of manoeuvre warfare really comes down to German tactics and operational doctrines that were brilliantly innovative and quite devastating when put into action- and yet Germany STILL was crushed in WWII.

All the manoeuvering in the world could not save the German panzer divisions from being encircled in the steel cauldron of Stalingrad; all the brilliant German operational doctrines could not prevent far more massive and powerful American and British forces from breaking through into the heart of Germany after bloody and grinding campaigns that mixed both attrition warfare and rapid deft changes of pace and speed.

4GW theory has tremendous explanatory power, make no mistake. It is a radical, brilliant, and highly intuitive theory that makes a great deal of sense when applied to modern warfare. But that does not mean that 4GW theory is always right or correct. It is critically important for us to remember both the strengths and the weaknesses of the theory when analysing any conflict, whether military or otherwise, to which 4GW theory might be reasonably applied.

I leave the last word to LTC Kratman, and the advice that he used to give his junior officers:
“Boys, when the enemy is tossing at you more decisions, in the form of probing fingers, than you’re comfortable with, take your reserve and smash one of those fingers to bloody pulp. It will provide useful marksmanship training to your men, inject some highly desirable caution on the enemy, and make you, personally, feel much, much better.”

Friday, 29 April 2016

Rectal-Cranial Inversion Syndrome never sounded so good

I've often thought that Tuomas Huolopainen- the mastermind behind NIGHTWISH, a.k.a. "THE best symphonic metal band there is"- has his head shoved up his own arse far too often for his own good. All you have to do is listen to tracks like "The Poet and the Pendulum", "Meadows of Heaven", "Song of Myself", or "The Greatest Show on Earth" to realise that he has NO ONE around to tell him, "enough already!".

Thankfully, he is also an incredible musician and composer. And he has never shown it more than on what has to be the single best symphonic metal track ever recorded:

Oh, but if you thought that version was amazing, wait until you hear it sung by one Floor Jansen:

Yeah. She really is that awesome. I've seen her perform live with both REVAMP and NIGHTWISH, and... well, what can one say, other than "WOW".

I'm not overly fond of girl-fronted metal bands. There are only a handful that I bother listening to, and most of them have very uneven output- AMARANTHE, BATTLE BEAST, and WITHIN TEMPTATION spring to mind immediately, as do a host of other lesser lights. But I make a big exception for pretty much anything that Floor Jansen does. She has one of the most versatile voices that I've ever heard- male or female, in any genre.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Bad Puppies! Sit! Stay! Heel!

... Sod off.

And shove that newspaper you were about to whack us with up where the Sun don't shine while you're at it:
For the second year in a row, nominations for the prestigious Hugo Awards for science fiction & fantasy have been swept by the Sad Puppies & Rabid Puppies, two groups of authors and fans who oppose left-wing domination of the community. 
The Sad Puppies were formed in 2013 by bestselling author Larry Correia, amidst growing domination of the Hugo Awards by left-wing cliques — who, in 2012, successfully agitated for the cancellation of an appearance by British comedian Jonathan Ross at the awards due to fears that the entertainer might make a “fat-shaming” joke. 
Correia, along with a number of other conservative and libertarian-leaning authors, contended that a large chunk of Hugo voters voted on the basis of authors’ personal political beliefs rather than the quality of their writing. The Sad Puppies aimed to change that, by nominating authors on the basis of perceived quality rather than perceived politics. The Puppies have a particular opposition to “message fiction” — works that are primarily intended to convey a political message rather than tell a good story.
Unsurprisingly, the SF-SJWs are going into full-on rabbit mode, headsploding left and right in their desperate attempts to downplay the crushing nature of our victory:
The Puppies will no doubt be happy to take credit for the appearance of these works and others on the finalist list. But, as with “Guardians of the Galaxy” last year, their endorsement probably doesn’t count for much in the grand scheme of things. “Seveneves,” one of the most talked-about science fiction books of 2015, was already a heavy favorite for an appearance on the finalist list for best novel. 
Likewise, Gaiman’s long-awaited return to the beloved Sandman universe means his finalist listing in best graphic novel was the closest thing to a shoo-in that the Hugos have. If “The Martian” hadn’t been a finalist in its category (best dramatic presentation, long form), people would have been stunned. 
In these cases as in several others, the Puppies are running in front of an existing parade and claiming to lead it. Few who know the field or the Hugos would give the slates credit for highlighting works and authors already well-appreciated in the genre, many of which have appeared this year as finalists for other awards or on bestseller lists.  
As our Supreme Dark Overlord pointed out, it so happens that the Sad Puppies were not responsible for Mr. Gaiman's nomination- we frothing-at-the-mouth Rabid Puppies were.

It gives me great pleasure to state for the record that I was a part of this campaign. It goes without saying, of course, that neither I nor any of my fellow Vile Faceless Minions were in any way acting under compulsion or orders from Vox Day, the Supreme Dark Overlord of the Evil Legion of Evil, and that whatever we nominated was totally of our own accord and free wills. It just so happens to be a cosmic coincidence that everything we nominated was exactly the same as what our Overlord did.

For, as he likes to say, repeatedly, is he not kind?

If you look at the list of Hugo-nominated works over at the Breitbart article, and you then look at just how much of the slate for this year's awards is Rabid-nominated, you'll see immediately just how big an impact we had.

Thanks to us, a living legend of science fiction, Dr. Jerry Pournelle himself, is up for an award- and he might just win one this year, too.

Thanks to us, great talent like Cheah Kai Wai and Charles Shao will get their works showcased, as will the efforts of small independent publishing houses like Castalia House to make SF/F literature truly great again.

Thanks to us, literary classics like Space Raptor Butt Invasion will finally get the-

OK, even I couldn't keep a straight face at that last one. But you get the idea.

Indeed, in my opinion the only way that this slate could have been any better is if a certain retired US Army Lieutenant Colonel by the name of Tom Kratman were to have one of his works nominated, preferably in the Best Novel category. The Torlocks and other associated SF-SJWs absolutely loathe and fear Vox Day- but I get the distinct impression that they're actually terrified, and I mean pants-shittingly scared, of LTC Kratman.

This may have something to do with his penchant for crucifying the nastier baddies in his books. Or it may be that his tolerance for their bullshit is even lower than ours. But either way, LTC Kratman, sir, consider this a formal request: give us Book 7 of the Carrera series already, so that we can turn the 2017 awards into an outdoor barbeque party.

And surely that book must include plenty of impaling, cannibalistic UN loonies, brutally accurate and realistic depictions of the Laws of War taken to their logical conclusions, and highly enthusiastic excruciators performing their tasks- just some humble suggestions from a true fan of your work, you understand, sir.

If we could somehow contrive to get Larry Correia's signature gun-porn Monster Hunter International series on the slate alongside LTC Kratman's work, that would actually be just about the perfect day. Sadly, the International Lord of Hate decided to take the moral high road and refused to accept any Hugo Award nominations, from 2015 into perpetuity, to prove a point. He proved it, all right, but I do feel the slightest twinge of regret that we won't be seeing any of his wonderfully over-the-top works causing triggering episodes among the Torlings.

Turning to the awards themselves, I have to say that I am not entirely on board with the idea of "making science fiction great again". It's already great, it's just that the awards go to all the really rubbish books that nobody reads, the ones with "fashionable" social justice messages and nonsense. (Ann Leckie's "Imperial Radch" series, starting with Ancillary Sword, is a good example of this sort of thing, what with its "body-swapping genderless AIs in space".) Personally, I would rather just nuke the entire thing from orbit and be done with it.

But that's me. I have no real idea what Voxemort the Malevolent has in mind, but I sure as hell am looking forward to it.

As for the final list of nominees for this year's awards, there are certain Sad Puppy-nominated works on that list that perplex me to no end. STAR WARS: The Force Awakens, for instance, is in my opinion one of the worst movies that I have ever seen. I hated it. And Mad Max: Fury Road was about as boneheaded a Sad Puppy nomination as I can think of- why the hell would they vote for such an execrably stupid insult to the legacy of the Mad Max franchise?!?

It's probably fair to say that the Sad Puppies weren't entirely responsible for those two abysmally bad works being on the final list- we won't know until Chaos Horizon breaks down the voting patterns, as he has done in the past. There was undoubtedly a fair amount of push from the non-Puppies voters to get those works, as well as the works by Ann Leckie and N. K. Jemisin, on the final ballot.

But this now leaves the MidAmeriCon attendees with some very interesting dilemmas on their hands.

They are now faced with the choice of hitting multiple categories with "No Award"- probably more than the five hit last year- or accepting "Safe Space as Rape Room" and Space Raptor Butt Invasion and Jim Butcher and Vox Day as the best examples of modern sci-fi out there today. I would love to be a fly on the wall at that particular meeting.

For today, though, it is time to celebrate. For, as Conan the Barbarian would say, this is very much a taste of what is best in life:
Conan! What is best in life?!
To crush your enemies, to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women!

If Beethoven had been a metalhead...

Which he absolutely would have been:

EXMORTUS were the opening act for the truly almighty AMON AMARTH last Friday night. Now normally, I could not care less who opens for bands like IRON MAIDEN, AMON AMARTH, or HELLOWEEN; I applaud them politely while mentally telling them to get the hell OFF the stage so that the real fun can begin. But these guys are something else entirely- young, hungry, fast, aggressive, and extremely talented.

And they were very happy to be there. The crowd picked up on it and gave them an appropriately raucous welcome. They weren't just good for an opening act- they were good, full stop.

This is the sort of thing that Yngwie Malmsteen wishes he could do these days:

The vocals, I admit, take some getting used to- but then, if you enjoy epic Viking death metal (which, of course, I do), then this is nothing new or problematic.

Friday, 22 April 2016

Vegans for Earth Day

And by vegans, I mean turning vegans into BURGERS, of course.

It's Earth Day, which for evil conservative bastards like me is an excuse to fire shotguns, burn petrol, drink beer, hunt deer, and crank the Viking death metal up WAAAAAAAAAAAY too loud. (That sort of day is also what every other day of the week looks like for us.)

In other words, it's a great day to live like a free man, and enrage every last unwashed hippie douchebag environmentalist who ever bought a f***ing Prius.

(For the record- I think hybrids are pointless wastes of time and money. A few years ago I was in Cleveland looking to rent a car, and when they asked me what kind, I said, "anything but a hybrid". They cracked up. Folks tend to be more sensible about such things out in the midwest.)

And to celebrate Earth Day properly, let us turn things over to our good friends from Top Gear to show us how the gifts of Mother Earth should be used:

Wednesday, 20 April 2016


As any of us rednecks can tell you, when it comes to blowing shit up, there is NO SUCH THING as "too much". After all, overkill is underrated.

So here are a couple of examples of heavily underrated overkill, all in the name of the right to keep and arm bears- er, wait, that's wrong, isn't it...

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Opportunities, not passions

Of late, I have been fielding a bunch of requests from current and former students of my Master's programme to share with them whatever pearls of wisdom I have picked up over my career. Most of this is of course opportunistic; the professional cynic in me knows full well that these people are looking at me as a potential contact who can do things for them, and nothing more.

That is all well and good. I used to be in their shoes. I felt the same things they did. And it does not bother me in the slightest.

I have to say, though, that this sort of thing makes me feel very old. I recently gave a guest lecture for the current generation of students in that programme and I swear it was like looking over a theatre of toddlers in diapers. I was half expecting their mums to show up carrying strollers and baby bottles afterwards.

And yet, here they are, asking me for advice about what to do when looking for a career, as if a grumpy old man like me would have the first clue about the subject.

Thing is, though, that I remember full well what it was like trying to figure out what I was going to do after my Master's programme ended. After that began the "real world", and at the time I had no idea whether I was even ready to face it.

Like most people of my age at the time, I had no idea how little I really knew.

With the benefit of more than a few years' worth of 20-20 hindsight, here is what I would have told my younger self, and what I try to tell the kids that come to me for advice now about jobs and such- those that bother to STFU and listen without interrupting, that is.

Here's the hard reality of being in your early twenties that very few people ever tell you: you know precisely DICK about ANYTHING of ANY importance. And the sooner you accept this cruel but inviolate fact, the happier you will be, and the easier your life will be.

It's just that simple.

A 22-year-old kid who has been told all her life that she is special and wonderful and bound for success in this world- as virtually every Millennial these days is- will suffer a very harsh reality check very quickly. Lord knows, I did, when I was in my early twenties. Reality doesn't care about what you've been told growing up. It only cares what you can actually do.

And the fact is that, when you're just starting out, you can't do much of anything. You're a barely functional adult in any real sense. The fact is that a new employee is a massive net cost in terms of resources for the first 6-12 months of his or her working life. It takes roughly that long to train a fresh-faced but clueless kid into a reasonably competent person who won't sink the team and the company by making a carelessly stupid mistake in a spreadsheet that goes out to a client, for instance.

It is no doubt quite harsh to hear this, for youngsters full of hope and optimism and youthful exuberance. But then, the real world is far better at beating those qualities out of people than I could ever be.

But once the youngster accepts the world for what it is, and begins to learn from it instead of resisting it, the scales fall away and suddenly, the hidden paths of opportunity reveal themselves.

Which brings me to my other piece of advice for such folks: do what Mike Rowe says, and chase opportunities, not passions.

Passions are fleeting. Following your "passion" is all too often a great way to end up directionless and adrift, unable to chart any kind of course because doing what you're "passionate" about doesn't actually provide any kind of moral or spiritual compass. I've seen this happen firsthand to members of my own family, and the results are rarely pretty.

On the other hand, if you find an opportunity that just so happens to play to your strengths- and you are wise and mature enough to know what your strengths, and more importantly, what your weaknesses, are- then you ought to grab it with both hands, and never let go.

I didn't follow my passions much, even when I was young. When I was coming to the end of my undergraduate degree, I knew that I wanted to continue studying mathematics for at least one more year. I wanted to specialise a bit and pick up some marketable skills in the process. I applied to a number of different MA and MSc programmes, in the US and the UK.

It just so happened that I was given the opportunity to go to Oxford to study for an MS in Mathematics and the Foundations of Computer Science- a highly prestigious degree, to be sure.

But then, other opportunities came knocking. I had applied, on fairly short notice, to three schools in the US which offered Master's degrees in mathematical finance of various types. I got into two. I chose the better of the two in terms of reputation.

I never looked back. And ten years later, here I am, living in a country that I love, doing a job that I genuinely enjoy. I get paid to solve complex technical problems for a living. I get to work with people I really respect. I get to challenge myself just about every day on the job.

I didn't get there easily. There were plenty of bumps in the road- including two layoffs, at least two years of being passed over for promotions that I thoroughly deserved, and nearly four years without any real raise in pay.

There are many more bumps ahead. I am about as far away from anyone's definition of a "people person" as one can possibly imagine, even though I actually get along with most people quite well (just as long as they LEAVE ME THE HELL ALONE when I need to do real work). And that is going to come back to bite me sooner rather than later.

But the lesson that life has taught me, through repeated and sometimes brutal application of the harsh rod of reality, is that it is opportunity that rules over passion, not the other way around.

Find your opportunities. Grasp them firmly with both hands. Never let them go. And make the most of your time on this Earth, so that when you meet the Supreme Judge of the Universe and are called to account for the ways in which you have used the gifts that He has given you, there will be neither shame nor sorrow in the recounting.

Monday, 18 April 2016

I had a different stake in mind...

I was attending church services at the temple of the Iron God on Sunday, as usual, when I saw an ad from the Lizard Queen herself pop up on one of the TVs during a CNN commercial break. It had something or other about how there is "too much at stake", followed by some other blather which I didn't bother to watch, and then it showed that the ad was paid for by the Clinton campaign.

I have to admit that I crossed myself the moment I realised it was a Clinton campaign ad. And then I simply burst out laughing (no doubt to the utter bemusement of that very pretty girl doing what she considered to be "leg presses" with two wheels on each side of the machine, but with barely four inches of movement in each rep), because the image that entered my mind was of a very different type of stake.

The kind that you would use for dealing with, say, this:

Now, for the record- and just in case any halfwit SJW gets the wrong idea- I do not advocate physical violence against any political candidate. My deeply held belief that Mrs. Clinton is a sociopathic liar, a criminal, a power-hungry, deeply untrustworthy, utterly unprincipled, and frankly catastrophically bad candidate for political office, does not in any way conflict with my even more deeply held belief that violence against political candidates in even the most nominal Western liberal democracy is wrong.

All of that being said (in one hell of an example of a run-on sentence), it is frightening, is it not, just how much HRC looks like a cast extra from Salem's Lot?

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Captain Save-A-Ho to the rescue!!!

A man so young that he apparently still needs to be told not to stick it in crazy, is clearly attempting to show that he has more money than brains by turning a ho into a housewife:
Lindsay Lohan is to be engaged to be married. 
The 29-year-old Mean Girls vet has accepted a proposal from 22-year-old Russian heir Egor Tarabasov, according to a Tuesday report from TMZ
The stunner has been flashing an emerald ring on her wedding finger since the news broke and celebrated with family, including mother Dina Lohan and father Michael at a Duran Duran concert. 
Entrepreneur Egor - whose father is a multi-millionaire businessman - asked for her hand in marriage 'over the weekend,' the site reported. [Question for the Philosoraptor: does it still count if you call yourself an entrepreneur when your dad is the one who did all the heavy lifting?]
While at the 2016 Asian Awards in London on Friday night, the Liz & Dick actress wore an engagement ring and diamond wedding band on her left wedding finger, before switching for a new design.
It is not often that I use three metaphors to insult someone in a single sentence, but in this case, it is warranted. This Tarabasov character is likely to find out, very much the hard way, that a fool and his money are easily parted.

Why do I make that claim? Well, there are a few things that come to mind when I hear Lindsay Lohan's name.

The first, of course, is the word "porcupine".

Note: Ms. Lohan is even LESS cute than this
The reason why should be obvious. As Urban Dictionary points out, a "porcupine girl" is a woman who, if she had as many pricks sticking out of her as she has had stuck in her, would look like said beastie. (Try thinking of that while going to sleep tonight.)

Does that apply in Ms. Lohan's case? Well... here's the evidenceyou be the judge.

The second is a terrific joke that Jeff Foxworthy- in my opinion the greatest stand-up comedian of both his generation and mine- made about the similarities between rental cars and... ladies of the night:

That joke gets me every time. And I've rarely come across a woman to whom it applies more readily than Ms. Lohan.

But the third thing that comes to mind in connection with Ms. Lohan's name is, frankly, how sad her life is.

Ms. Lohan is 29 years old. Few girls in their late twenties of my acquaintance look as used-up, washed-out, and just plain fallen as she does.

I remember watching what was then a 12-year-old Lindsay Lohan in a rather cute comedy called The Parent Trap, also starring the late and legitimately excellent actress Natasha Richardson. Ms. Lohan was quite adorably silly in that film, coming across with just the right mix of childish mischievousness and innocence.

One look at her now tells you just how far she has fallen. And that is truly sad to watch.

Ms. Lohan's choices were, and are, her own to make. Her mistakes are hers to own. Who she sleeps with, how many different kinds of drugs she takes (and in what quantities), what she spends her money on, is her business. But she certainly should not get a free pass for her self-destructive actions. And no man in his right mind, with any degree of sense, should attempt to wife up such a fallen woman.

Based on past experience, there are only a few ways in which this particular pairing is likely to end- assuming, of course, that the nuptials actually proceed as planned, which I find unlikely to say the least.

First, Ms. Lohan will probably end up assiduously cheating on her younger spouse with any reasonably good-looking man willing to give her the time of day. As any regular reader of Manosphere blogs and magazines can attest, this will inevitably result in her looking ever more used-up, and will certainly not do her self-esteem any good.

She could probably get away with that for a few more years. These days, Botox, plastic surgery, makeup, and other such... enhancements can do wonders. But just as no amount of paint and spackle applied to a house is going to hide the decayed floorboards, the grimy windows, the funny smell coming from the basement, and the dusty attic, those upgrades aren't going to do her much good after about 35.

The end result of what is likely to be the worst decision of a young man's life? An expensive divorce in which Ms. Lohan gets rich, as do the lawyers on both sides of the case.

Here's the thing, though: Mr. Tarabasov has his entire life ahead of him to make his money. (Or he could just get his dad to bail him out- much more likely, in my opinion.) A man's future potential depends almost entirely on his work ethic, his ability to identify good opportunities, and the experience that he has accumulated through years of getting kicked in the teeth, repeatedly, at the beginning of his career.

If he's smart and plays his cards right- for which, admittedly, there is scant evidence at the moment- then after his first failed marriage, he will likely go on to a life of wealth and ease, surrounded by beautiful women of his choosing. Again, that's IF he makes the right choices, and he certainly isn't making the right one right now.

Second, the engagement will fall apart long before the marriage ever takes place. If so, Mr. Tarabasov is likely out five figures, or however much a skating rink shaped like a diamond costs these days. (The discussion over the stupidity of buying diamond engagement rings is for another day, but it's worth having.) If he's worth a few million dollars or more, that's actually a damned good bargain- better to cut one's losses and run than to face massive lawyer's bills and the likelihood of seeing half, or more, of one's earnings and wealth removed at gunpoint on the orders of a court.

Third, this marriage actually works and these two live happily ever aft-



My apologies for that. I had to go find something to clean the coffee off my keyboard. I just couldn't write that with a straight face.

For us ordinary mortals, the lessons of this little foray into the pointless, vapid, and frankly stupid world of celebrity gossip are clear.

No matter how tempted you might be, no matter how great she might be in the sack, no matter how firm and bouncy her breast implants might be, NEVER TRY TO TURN A HO INTO A HOUSEWIFE. You will regret it for the rest of your life as the biggest mistake you ever made.

And never even think about wifing up a woman whose sexual past has been revealed in very public fashion, repeatedly, to the point where her N-count is in the high double if not triple digits. Otherwise you're going to find yourself confronted in very stark, living colour with the consequences of getting together with a woman who has had 500 Miles of Mr. Right going through her, 6-8 inches at a time.

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Quarter-squat denial syndrome

If you have it, get treated for it right away:

If you're lucky, your local treatment centre (also known as a "gym") will have a therapy counsellor (also known as "that cranky powerlifter in the squat rack over there in the dimly lit back corner") available for on-the-spot treatment.

Just don't bother him while he's in the middle of a set. Otherwise, the law is (or should be) on his side if he ends up impaling you on a 45lb chromed-steel barbell. You asked for it, after all.

Thursday, 14 April 2016

The INTJ thought process

Following his recent debate with Dr. Miller on the subject of free trade, Vox Day wrote up a post in which he made a very interesting note about how his thought process works:
It's as if the more clearly I am able to think through these complicated issues, the harder I find verbally articulating the path through them. At this point, I have to expect that if I ever come to correctly grok the fullness of all the myriad pros and cons of free trade, my verbal explanations will be reduced to seemingly nonsensical word bursts.
move... you know... war... people... um, mask of credit! 
Like Vox, I am an INTJ- an off-the-charts one, by most tests:

The difficulties that he encounters in attempting to articulate the leaps of intuition and logic that he makes are encountered on a daily basis by highly intelligent Rationals everywhere, and it is worth taking a moment to explain exactly how this works for us.

For the gifted, technically skilled introvert, our thought process is almost completely internal, as we spend truly enormous amounts of time locked up in our own heads. We are motivated by facts, data, and evidence- not by people or hearsay.

Because we spend so much time in our own headspace, we think laterally very easily; it is routine for us to start on a subject, go off on a mental wool-gathering trip for the next thirty minutes while web-surfing through YouTube videos of epic nutshots, and suddenly make an intuitive leap of logic and judgement that makes perfect sense- to us, anyway.

When we reach that end-point, we then subject it to an absolutely merciless series of tests to see if our theory matches the available evidence. If it does not, it is cast aside just as ruthlessly.

But if it does, and it is capable of withstanding the battering rams of fact and logic that we bring to bear against it, then we know that it must be the truth. A chain of logic, whether concluded in inductive or deductive fashion, is valid as long as the founding assumptions of that chain are valid, by definition.

And if that chain is found to be both valid and sound, then it is true.

There are limits to logic, however. Logic is not everything, which is why INTJs pair logical thought processes with our externally focused drive to test our ideas at all times against the facts of the real world. The main criterion by which almost any INTJ judges any idea is, "does it work?"

A chain of logical deduction could be beautifully elegant in its setup and derivation. But if the conclusion reached therein does not match with observable evidence, it is wrong and must be scrapped. End of story.

It's as simple as that, and we don't give a damn whose feelings we hurt in the process of ditching a stupid idea.

This is, of course, why INTJs are often deeply disliked by more emotional types. It's not that we don't feel emotions- we do, very strongly. Less mature Rationals who have poor control over their emotions can easily find themselves overwhelmed and unable to function because their logical, data-driven personalities are unable to mesh with their turbulent emotional states.

It's just that we don't allow emotions to rule over us. And we have absolutely zero tolerance for people who let themselves be ruled mostly by feeeeeeeelings instead of facts.

The result of this thought process is precisely what Vox outlined above. The more clearly we know and understand an issue, the more facts and evidence we gather in support of our ideas, the more certain we become that we have come across something which is TRUE. And the more certain we are that what we have is true, the more ruthless and uncompromising we become in defending it.

As INTJs, we are far more interested in getting to the truth than in being right. If what is true stands in direct opposition to what we believe, most of us will abandon what we believe to accept the correct paradigm. (Not always, obviously, but as a general rule, this is true.)

There are many benefits to having such a ruthlessly pragmatic approach to seeking the truth. The major unfortunate side effect of it, of course, is that the better we know something, and the more convinced we are of its rightness, the harder we find it to explain that same concept to others.

After all, to us, it is obvious. How can anyone not see what we see?! The facts match the theory! The logic is internally consistent!! The conclusion must surely make sense!!!

... And yet, whenever our conclusions challenge what others accept to be dogmatically true, those others fall apart while our conclusions stand inviolate. The fact is that most people are unable to handle the truth. So they stick to what they believe instead, in spite of all evidence to the contrary, no matter how carefully presented.

What Vox describes as his utter inability to translate that which he can plainly see to be correct and true to others is something I run into on a daily basis at work.

I work in a highly technical job involving a number of different disciplines and a large infrastructure chain of complicated risk and P&L systems. As technical risk/P&L experts go, I am quite simply the best at what I do. If that sounds like boasting, well, too bad- I make no apologies for who I am and how good I am at what I do. I got to that point by understanding my firm's systems, processes, infrastructure, and key personnel better than anyone else.

So when I examine a problem that someone else brings to me and diagnose the root cause, the solutions generally tend to be quite obvious to me. However, less experienced and skilled people often find it very difficult to keep up with me or figure out how I reached the conclusion that I did.

And it's all that I can do to stop myself from grabbing such folk and pointing frantically at my computer screen, yelling, "HOW CAN YOU NOT SEE THIS?!?! IT'S RIGHT THERE!!!"

What is obvious to people like Vox, and me, and probably many of the people who read what I write, often requires leaps of imagination- actually, intuition- that less introverted types find nearly impossible to make. Instead of reasoning their way to the solution, they substitute human interaction for thought, and attempt to get answers by talking.

The natural consequence of this is that they inevitably end up pissing off an INTJ at the very moment when he is trying to do his damnedest to articulate what seems so blindingly obvious to him that he finds it bizarre that he has to even bother attempting to explain it to anyone else. And this is the biggest mistake that anyone can ever make with a highly introverted, highly gifted person.

As commenter Eduardo the Magnificent pointed out in response to an earlier post:
My big don't: I don't talk much, so when I do, it's important. Don't ignore, interrupt or belittle the speaker. Extroverts love to talk over each other, but there's nothing more disrespectful to an introvert. If the speaker pauses to collect his thoughts, don't take that as an invitation to cram 40,000 sentences of drivel and change the subject.
Every INTJ I have ever known is a relatively slow and laconic talker. My father and I are both INTJs, and both of us like to take the time to speak carefully, so that our words may be clearly understood. It is from my dad that I learned how to listen carefully and respectfully- because that is how he operates. I rarely interrupt people when they speak, as I would prefer to listen and be sure that I have heard and processed all of the information available before responding.

Unfortunately, this courtesy is rarely returned in kind. And as noted above, there is nothing more irritating to an INTJ than this. We absolutely HATE being interrupted. If we have taken the time to formulate a chain of reasoning and wish to subject it to more rigourous testing, then we expect to be able to express that reasoning in full.

If you don't want to hear it, just tell us up front. We'll simply shrug and get on with our day. We don't like having our time wasted.

On the rare occasions that we're being stupid, of course, then it is perfectly acceptable to interrupt and shoot us down. Better by far that a bad thought process be interrupted before it becomes downright idiotic, than to allow us to commit the cardinal sin of accepting as true that which is plainly false.

But if we're right, or if we're trying to explain something carefully so that you can understand it, interrupting us is a great way to disrespect what we have to say. At that point, we will usually do one of two things.

Either we will simply stop talking to you, because we know that you are clueless about what is truly important. Or we will make it clear that your presence is unwelcome, and do whatever it takes to remove ourselves from it.

In either situation, the likely loser will be you, not us.

Almost all of the above, by the way, probably indicates why Vox Day and others like him make perfect sense to me, and why I am almost never angered or offended by what Vox has to write. The simple fact is that he is right about most things. And he is right because he has taken great pains to observe the world around him for what it is, not what he wants it to be, and has then compared his thought processes to those observations with a level of rigour and scrutiny that is unusual even by INTJ standards.

And that is almost certainly why he won last night's debate. I didn't watch it, but I am quite familiar with the arguments that he would have made, and I am not the least bit surprised that even a U Chicago-trained economist had an immensely hard time dealing with the remorseless siege machine that is Vox's mind.

So, the next time you find yourself talking to a deeply introverted guy who really seems to know his shit, and you ask him how he could possibly think what he just said, and he gives you a look like you've just grown a second head, don't be too alarmed. He probably isn't the problem- you are.