A Bad Day for Empires: A Blast from the Past

Not a particular single event, but I noticed one time when looking through “On this day” in Wikipedia that October 19 seems to be a particularly bad day for empirs.

202 BC

At the end of the 2nd Punic War, after taking major losses at Utica and Great Plains, the Carthaginian’s recalled Hannibal from Italy. Confident in Hannibal’s forces and leadership, they broke the armistice imposed on them after the preceding two defeats and confronted the Romans. Roman general Publius Cornelius Scipio Massinissa. The Carthaginians had a somewhat larger army of 40,000 men and including 80 war elephants compared to the Roman 35,100 men.

The result was disaster for the Carthaginians with 20,000 men killed and 20,000 captured, wiping out the Carthaginian army and ending the 17 year 2nd Punic War.

1453 AD

Three months after the Battle of Castillon, England finally loses the last of its possessions in southern France, thus bringing to an end the Hundred Years war.

1781

With French ships blockading both resupply and evacuation, Lord Cornwallis is forced to surrender to George Washington, ending the battle of Yorktown, the last major battle of the American Revolutionary War and making American independence a fait accompli although it would be another two years before Great Britain officialy recognized that independence.

1812

Napoleon’s invasion of Russia comes to an end as he is forced to begin his retreat from Moscow. This would mark the furthest extent of the French Empire under Napoleon.

1813

Once again, Napoleon faces a major defeat in the battle of Leipzig. The Sixth Coalition, consisting of troops from the Russian Empire, the Austrian Empire, the Kingdom of Prussia, Sweden, and the Grand Duchy of Mecklenburg-Schwerin at 257,000 men outnumbered Napoleon’s 177,000 men. In particular the Sixth Coalition had 1400 guns to Napoleon’s 700. This ended the French Empire’s presence east of the Rhine.

1866

The Austrian Empire, in accordance with the 1866 Treaty of Vienna which ended the Third Italian war of Independence (and a theater of the Austro-Prussian war), handed Veneto and Mantuo to France, which immediately gave them to the new Kingdom of Italy as payback for previous concessions of Savoy and Nice.

1935

Italy, attempting to build itself into an empire, had just invaded Ethiopia, leading to a war that would last until February of 1941. On this date in 1935, the League of Nations would place economic sanctions on Italy which would prove about as effective as such sanctions usually are, that is, not to speak of. While these sanctions caused alarm in Rome, they served to strengthen Musollini’s position as the Italian people saw him as being strong in standing up to the League of Nations and so helped to cement Fascist power in Italy and more strongly drive Italy into the German camp for the coming war.

2005

Not exactly an empire or even a nascent empire (although Iraq did have pretensions of being a leader of the “Arab world”, so perhaps a nascent empire after all) but on October 19, 2005, Saddam Hussein went on trial for Crimes against Humanity.

Goth on Ice: Class Progress

Near the end of class yesterday, after working a bit on spins, I had a bit of a talk with the coach. This week was kind of a pre-test and “technique tuning” with next week being testing (last class of the 8 week session).

On balance, I’m probably OK to pass Adult 6–not quite really “there” with the two-foot to one-foot spin (shown in the video above). If I were just doing Adult 6 and out which is typical for recreational Adult skaters (if they even go that far) what I just need is the practice to get it to “come together”. Thus, I could be considered passed for level.

However, since I do plan to continue with free-skate (the actual “figure skating” curriculum, as for competition) my thought to stay in Adult 6 a bit longer is probably a good one.

I do need to have my spins a bit better to continue with the more demanding standards of the free-skate classes. Also, there are a few things not covered in the Adult curriculum that are part of the “Basic” curriculum that younger skaters, aiming at free skate, take. Things like toe taps and bunny hops (preliminaries for the jumps with rotation you learn in free-skate), spirals, and pivots being the main ones.

One of my coaches has been willing to work with me on those since the classes at this level are small and they can be flexible with curriculum. Harder to customize curricula in larger classes. Still, it’s been a while since we did any work on those and I may need to take a few private lessons to “fill in the gaps.” The trick there is, as always $$$ as well as being able to work out a schedule.

One thing I am a bit unhappy with is that I still look a bit “clunky” out skating (see the progress video posted last week, but also here…)

Figure skating should be “pretty” and, well, I’m not quite there yet either. I actually mentioned that to the coach and some of the things I have been working on since doing the above video–pushing “out” in my crossovers rather than back and getting down lower in my knees (which also allows a deeper cross) is helping with that. Also need to work on not “breaking” at the waist which is not only bad form (and part of my problem with spins) but also looks bad.

Finally, I left my skates with the coach who also does sharpening (has his own sharpening machine). I do not have the folk at the rink sharpen the blades. They are all hockey guys and can ruin figure skate blades really quickly by putting a hockey profile on them. That’s why I had to replace the blades on my skates a couple years ago (not long after I bought them). I’ll be able to pick them up Tuesday.

Forward! (And backward…because…you do that in skating.)

Goth on Ice: Two and a Half Years

So it’s been just over two and a half years since I started skating…well, not counting the time when I was 18 or so and did a little self-taught skating. After all, when I started again in March of 2019, I had lost all of that earlier stuff and was essentially starting over from scratch.

I’ll admit that progress has been a bit slow compared to most of the folk I see on YouTube doing their “one year progress videos” or the like. And, well, there are reasons for that. When I started, foot pain was a major issue. In public skate, I’d skate half a lap then take a break to allow the pain in my feet to fade a bit. Then another half lap and do the same. Two laps of the rink and I was done for the day. For several months I counted progress by how many laps I was able to complete. In classes, I’d spend half or more of the class time sitting on the sidelines, again letting foot pain fade slightly. The lack of being able to fully use class time and get much practice in meant that progress was slow. And the simple truth is, talent is a thing. There are aspects of body mechanics, proprioception (the ability to accurately “feel” what your body is doing–I used to think I was pretty good in that aspect from martial arts but, frankly, figure skating is a whole other level entirely), balance, coordination, and so on that combine so that some people learn faster than others. That’s the reality.

Still, even without much talent, even with the challenges I had going into it, I’ve come pretty far in the two and a half years I’ve skated. I’m nearing the end of Adult 6. I’ve recently gotten the forward inside three-turn adequate to pass level (which doesn’t mean that there’s not a whole lot of improvement to be made) which leaves the two-foot to one-foot spin before I graduate to pre-free-skate where things get really exciting.

There is one aspect in which the early skating when I was 18 or so did help me. When I was struggling with the early classes, when skating was work and not a lot of pleasure, I did remember how much fun it was when I was younger. Thus, I knew that if I could just get past the immediate challenges it would be fun again.

And that’s exactly what I found. More, as I learn a new element and it finally clicks, I come out of practice of that element with a big grin on my face. It’s a major dopamine hit. 😉 And, since there are so many things to learn in figure skating, I can always count on there being new dopamine hits awaiting me. I got my inside three? Well, there’s still the two-foot to one-foot spin. Then there’s the Waltz 8, Waltz Jumps, and direct entry into one-foot spins. And when I have that, well, there are toe-loop jumps, Backward inside edges on a line. Actual-for-real-power pulls and, somewhere down the line, the Axel jump.

I’ll never run out of new things to learn. That’s one of the beauties of figure skating as a performer. There’s always something new.

Friendzone

The idea of the “friendzone” came up recently and, well, while no expert on relationships (What? No!) I have some thoughts on the matter.

First, and most commonly, “friendzone” is simply a whiny way for someone to complain that someone they are interested in romantically is not interested in return. Well, here’s an unpleasant truth for such people: Your interest in someone else is not an obligation on them. They don’t “owe” you interest in return. You’re not entitled to their romantic interest just because you are interested in them.

If you’re in that situation, pull on your big-boy manpanties and deal. Get over it and move on. If you can do that by dint of personal fortitude, great. If you need to work through it with others: friends (not the “friendzoning” person), your bartender, your therapist, whatever, then do that. But get over it and. move. on. Remain friends if you can. The world can always use more good friendships. Indeed, in my opinion the world needs more friendships than it needs lovers. If you can’t, be honest about it and move on. Pretended friendship with an ulterior motive is not friendship at all.

That should cover the large majority of “friendzone” cases, but there are a few others.

One other is a much more toxic version of “friendzoning”. In this case the “friendzoning” person is deliberately stringing along the friendzoned individual. They’re “plan B” or, worse, someone they’re keeping hoping in order to get concessions or gifts with no intention of ever giving them any consideration.

I don’t know how common it is, but it does exist. I don’t have links to hand but I’ve seen videos of women bragging about doing this. So, yes, it does exist and it’s despicable. And in this case “friendzone” is something of a misnomer. Friends don’t treat friends that way. The “friendzoning” person was never the friend of the person being friendzoned.

The third category is kind of a special case of the first one. In this case, the woman has a list of things that she says she wants in a romantic partner yet, strangely, can’t seem to find them. And the reason she can’t find them is that she keeps focusing her attention on men she finds “exciting” and the traits she finds exciting are things that simply do not make that person a good prospect for a long term relationship.

In such cases, it does no good to point out the disconnect. If you’re the one in the friendzone it does no good to point out that you have the very traits she’s looking for. First off, most people have a remarkable lack of self-awareness (and I include myself in that–which makes for a kind of meta self awareness of a lack of self awareness). Do you really have the very traits she’s looking for or is that your ego talking? Most men think they are great lovers, great drivers, and great warriors and are wrong on all three counts. (Don’t get upset, guys; there’s one for the women too.) And if you think she owes you anything, then you pretty much demonstrate that, no, you are not the “nice guy” she’s looking for.

In this third case, the woman in question needs to sit down and really think through what she really wants and decide what’s really important to her and start focusing her attention there rather than chasing bright, flashy, “exciting” stuff.

But until she does, for the one in the friendzone, you’re back to case one: pull up your manpanties and deal. Indeed, that’s really the answer in all three, because there’s no percentage in pining after someone who’s just not interested or, worse, is playing games with you.

Sell. I Don’t Back Losers.

Several times in fiction I’ve seen the case of some hard-driving businessman getting a report from a subordinate on his investments. Often, in the midst of an otherwise upbeat report, one stock slipping a few points in the market will be mentioned. In such cases, the hard-driving businessman says words to the effect of:

“Sell. I don’t back losers.”

This is patent nonsense. Look, any publicly traded company that hangs around for a while will have ups and downs in its stock market. Any “hard-driving businessman” who followed a policy of selling anything that ever slipped would, in rather short order, be without a portfolio. No stock price always increases in price.

While that’s a fictional case, we see similar effects in the real world. Opponents of an economic policy, no matter how well that policy might be working for the economy as a whole, can always find examples of companies doing poorly under it. Similarly, fans of a policy, no matter how disastrous for the economy as a whole, can always find companies doing well under it. That’s why you’ve got to cast your nets wide when attempting to judge the effect of an economic policy. You can’t just rely on a handful of businesses or a small subset of the population.

You also can’t look at the very short term. The market, while the most efficient way to allocate resources for maximum value in the long run, can be…somewhat volatile (okay, a lot volatile) in the short run. They say water seeks its own level but part of “seeking its own level” includes waves, tides, rivers, waterfalls, avalanches, and hurricanes (among many other things). So it is with the economy. As prices tend to a “market clearing” value (a price where the amount of a good or service people are willing to provide exactly matches the amount of the good or service people are willing to buy–at that price) that does not mean the path to that market clearing price is a smooth one. Things can vary wildly on the way to that price. Fads occur. People see others buying and so buy themselves, a momentum builds up and people keep buying until a lot of people realize they have more of the good or service than they really want at the price they paid for it and then turn to sell it back to the market, causing the price to crash. This is the very definition of an economic bubble.

A lot of people end up spending a lot of their resources to acquire something that they end up selling again for a lot less resources than they first expended with the result that they end up with less resources than when they started with nothing to show for it. A classic example is the Dutch Tulip Market Bubble.

This kind of volatility is behind many of the complaints against the market and there is some validity to them. An argument can be made that trading a bit of efficiency for a bit less volatility can be a good thing. That was one of the arguments for establishing the Federal Reserve. And, indeed, for a while it worked. Then, in 1929, the Federal Reserve, after having had a change of leadership and several structural changes managed to take the wrong move every. single. step. of. the. way. The result was what could have been a sharp, but relatively short, economic downterm (a “readjustment”) turned into the Great Depression.

As Thomas Sowell is wont to say, just because the government can do better than the market in some respect does not mean that it will. Any such meddling must be looked at with a jaundiced eye and, if taken, taken with a great deal of trepidation with cutouts to stop it if it does not produce the desired results if, indeed, it makes matters worse.

In short, exactly the opposite of the way we handle government meddling in the economy today.

And so, this ended up drifting quite a bit from where I was thinking it would go when I started, but there it is.

Monitoring your Bank Transactions

Saw this “meme” on the Book of Faces, one of several:

The meme is wrong, actually. What’s being proposed isn’t reducing the reporting requirement from transactions of $10,000 or more down to $600. No, what’s being proposed is far, far worse.

What’s being proposed is reporting all transactions if the balance in the account exceeds $600 within some particular period (a year, I think).

So, let’s say you get paid biweekly. When you get paid, you deposit your paycheck in your bank account (either by Direct Deposit or going old-school with a paper check). Well, guess what? If you make a rather modest amount more than minimum wage then that deposit, even if the balance is zero on the day you make it, will put you over that $600 mark. That means the IRS would now have access to every transaction you make.

Every transaction. Every purchase you make using a debit card. Every check you write (or have the bank make if you use online banking). Every electronic funds transfer. All of it.

This isn’t quite as comprehensive in its totalitarianism as the “programmable” digital currency I described yesterday but it is bad enough.

I am trying to imagine a way this could possibly pass constitutional muster (I’m looking at you, Fourth Amendment), but, well, I also have difficulty with how “no fly lists”, “Civil Asset Forfeiture”, and Red Flag Laws pass Constitutional Muster. And yet, the courts have allowed them so the need to pass Constitutional Muster is…not so great as it would seem.

The Left isn’t even trying to hid their desire to run a totalitarian dictatorship. This is just one of many “wouldn’t it be great if…” things that have been coming out.

Does anybody not get it yet?

I Owe My Soul to the Company Store

So, “digital currency” would give the government or your employers complete control over what you can buy. This isn’t some made-up conspiracy an “oh, look what they could do with that” but someone actually advocating for it.

Yesterday, I talked about mileage taxes on cars and how, depending on how it was implemented (GPS tracking of all vehicles licensed to use on the public streets), it would give the government complete tracking of your movements–everywhere you went, how long you were there, where you went next, and so on. The only way to avoid that would be to walk or ride your bicycle (if that–want to bet that bicycles, since they use the public roads too, would not also eventually have a tax imposed once the precedent is set?).

Seriously, this would mean complete control of your life by some bureaucrat somewhere. As I said yesterday, the corpses of every tyrant in history has suddenly got a raging erection from excitement at the level of totalitarianism that this means.

People like those referenced in the piece above are actually advocating for a level of oppressive dystopia worse than any in history. Worse, indeed, than any in fiction. Brave New World and 1984 are pleasant libertarian allegories by comparison.

And people are cheering for it.

This cannot be allowed to continue. This must not be allowed to continue. And in the end, it won’t be. But the longer it takes for this dystopic train to be derailed, the more devastating and bloodier the eventual crash.

It needs to be stopped and it needs to be stopped now.

As for me, make mine freedom.

Mileage Tax?

So I saw this:

Okay, this isn’t confirmed, but a “mileage tax” has definitely been floated as a proposal and 8 cents a mile is not beyond the pale. If you have seen another figure proposed for it, then, please, do the math yourself.

26,000 miles? How quaint. Between my commute and getting too and from skating (you, know, ice skating, which is the Goth on Ice’s primary exercise and means of maintaining physical and mental health) I put in close to 100 miles, on average, a day, or 3000 miles a month. At $0.08 per mile that comes to $240 per month.

I don’t know about you but $240 a month would be a big hit in my monthly budget. Put it into annual terms, 100 miles a day, $8 a day, 365 days a year? $2920 a year. A single dad, trying to do on one income what used to be done on two makes things tight. As things stand, I manage but this could easily break that budget. But, I guess, those in Washington have no real experience with having to keep to a budget. After all, look at the government’s spending vs. its income.

And I’m not alone. There are a lot of people who would be seriously hurt by something like this. And it’s not the wealthy who would be hardest hit by it. No, it would be the middle class and working poor who would be most hurt by any such “mileage tax”, whether 8 cents or a single cent a mile.

That leaves aside how it’s going to be managed? How are all those miles driven going to be counted? Are cars going to be required to carry GPS locators which record their every movement with some central data system counting up miles driven by cars and send bills to the cars’ registered owners?

Look at that carefully: a national system that tracks every movement of every person’s motor vehicle. That tracks every move you make if it’s made in a car. The corpses of every tyrant in history is having a raging erection at the thought of such population control.

And what happens when the computer glitches and someone gets a bill for a round trip drive to the Moon? Won’t happen? Come on. Everyone reading this is on a computer. Have you ever seen a computer that never glitches? Ever?

Or perhaps instead of GPS locators we’ll have a million “mileage reading stations” around the country where people will have to bring their cars to get the odometer read. I’m sure they will be as efficiently run as your local DMV. So people have to take time out of their day on a regular basis, to go have someone read the mileage on the car in order to present them with a tax bill? And if someone has more than one motor vehicle, say, a car with good gas mileage for a daily commute, a truck for hauling stuff, and maybe a beater for Junior to use to go to the community college? That’s three trips to the mileage reading station, racking up more mileage because the cars have to be driven there.

Or perhaps it will just be the honor system. You write down your current mileage on a form and send it in and you get a bill based on what you sent in. I’m sure that will work very well indeed. I’m also sure there will be a lot of accidents, car fires, or mechanical failures that require replacing an odometer which just by chance will prevent double-checking the mileage reading against the accumulated self-reported values when the car is sold and an “odometer reading” must be put on the title form.

The simple truth is, any such scheme is totally unworkable. It would pretty much end the ability of most people to own and drive a car. And let’s not get started on the trucking industry and the effect it would have on the price of anything that is shipped by truck.

These are totally predictable first order effects of a “mileage tax.” Blatantly obvious effects. And when effect are that obvious and so easily predictable, then one has to wonder if, perhaps, the effects are not the purpose of the proposal in the first place.

Never let a man leave your house…

So this showed up in my feed:

In a similar vein, Robert Heinlein put in the mouth of one of his character: “A man wants a mother of his children. He wants a willing and available concubine too. If you are not she, he will seek one elsewhere.”

Now, those statements aren’t universally true, but there is nevertheless a lot of truth to them. But, there are a few points to remember.

The most important thing to remember is whether or not the man in question is a man of integrity. Yes, if he’s unhappy in his relationship then he’s got a strong incentive to “look elsewhere.” This, however, does not provide an excuse for “cheating”. There are different ways one might “look elsewhere.” It’s a dishonest man of low moral character who will decide that he’s unhappy with his current partner and then go looking for affairs, for “side pieces.” That’s dishonest. That’s dishonorable. “Hungry and horny” does not make cheating excusable. It simply is not a valid excuse.

A man of integrity, if he’s unhappy with his partner will first bring his concerns to his partner. He will attempt to come to a mutually satisfactory resolution of the issue with his partner. Perhaps she also has something she’s unhappy about and they can work it out between them. Maybe, in more difficult cases, they can go to a third party for counseling to help resolve the difficulties.

If, however, the problem cannot be resolved, the man has two choices. He can decide that the problem is one he can live with. That things are good enough elsewhere that he can accept this area of less than perfect satisfaction chalking it up to the fact that we live in an imperfect world. That’s one possibility.

The other possibility is that the problem is one the man just cannot live with. He’s not going to have a satisfying relationship with this individual without resolution of this problem. And if resolution of the problem is not possible then he still doesn’t have a valid excuse to cheat.

In such a case, the man of integrity will end. the. relationship. with the current partner before seeking a new relationship where he can attempt to have those needs and desires met. This is better all around. While both the man and his original partner will, no doubt, be hurt in the process, at least they are not deceived. They know where they stand. And the man doesn’t have to hide his new relationships. He doesn’t have to worry about others finding out about it. He can be open and up front about it.

Better for everybody.

And, yes, all of this works the other way too. I simply looked at it from a male perspective because, well, that’s my own perspective.

So if you truly find yourself in a relationship that does not suit your needs and you simply must have those needs fulfilled elsewhere, then break off the current relationship cleanly before seeking another.

It’s the honorable thing to do.