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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Yesterday was Trafalgar Day: history, videos, art and links

May the Great God, whom I worship, grant to my country and for the benefit of Europe in general, a great and glorious Victory; and may no misconduct in any one tarnish it; and may humanity after Victory be the predominant feature of the British Fleet. For myself, individually, I commit my life to Him who made me, and may His blessing light upon my endeavors for serving my Country faithfully. To Him I resign myself and the just cause which is entrusted to me to defend. Amen. Amen. Amen.
~Horatio, Lord Nelson (his prayer, 20 October 1805, on the eve of the Battle of Trafalgar) 

No captain can do very wrong if he places his ship alongside that of an enemy.
~Nelson (memorandum, written onboard HMS Victory, off Cadiz, 9 October 1805) 

ENGAGE THE ENEMY MORE CLOSELY
~Nelson's favorite signal* (made "general" to the fleet by him for the last time at 1156 on 21 October 1805) 

October 21 is Trafalgar Day (wiki) in the Royal Navy, the 209th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar and the death of England's greatest naval hero, Admiral Horatio Nelson on 21 October 1805. Fought off the southwest coast of Spain, Trafalgar was the greatest naval victory of the Napoleonic wars and essentially destroyed the sea power of France in a single engagement. Nelson and the British fleet had been blockading the French and Spanish fleet under Villeneuve in Cadiz after pursuing it to the Caribbean and back. When Villeneuve finally emerged to give battle, Nelson, depending on the superior seamanship and fighting skill of his "band of brothers" and the British sailor, adopted an unorthodox tactic that split the French/Spanish line into three parts and led to a general melee in which the British took 19 ships without loss.

Larger version here. One of several paintings
of the battle of Trafalgar by English
 artist J.M.W. Turner (1875-1851) 
At the height of the battle however, Nelson was cut down by a French sharpshooter's bullet, and he died a few hours later. In his History of Modern Europe (1883), Charles Alan Fyfe wrote, 

"Trafalgar was not only the greatest naval victory, it was the greatest and the most momentous victory either by land or by sea during the whole of the Revolutionary War.** No victory, and no series of victories, of Napoleon produced the same effect upon Europe... Nelson's last triumph left England in such a position that no means remained to injure her."

* N.B. However, much more famous was his signal at the start of the battle:

"ENGLAND EXPECTS THAT EVERY MAN WILL DO HIS DUTY"

In signal flags, this appeared as:


** Meaning here, the conflicts that followed the French revolution in 1789.

Battlefield Academy: Refight Trafalgar! - Refight Nelson's greatest battle against the remorseless Artificial Intelligence engine of the Academy.

Here's a 1955 newsreel of Queen Elizabeth celebrating Trafalgar day:



And a short video re-enactment:


Another of Turner's paintings of the battle:


Since this post is largely is about Trafalgar Day the Lady Hamilton affair is left out. BBC History has more on that, if you're interested.

Also, here's their Animated Map: Battle of Trafalgar - A step-by-step guide to the battle.

And additional resources:

The Battle of Trafalgar by Andrew Lambert




The Art of War Gallery by Professor Daniel Moran


Women in Nelson's Navy by Nick Slope

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Guy missing both legs arranges chainsaw massacre prank

He scared the crap out of a bunch of people. I'd give this a PG-13 rating, unless you want your kids to have nightmares:



Links to various aspects of the filming at youtube. Behind-the-scenes video:



via @rdbrewer at Ace.

Tuesday links


Take Your Paranoia To The Next Level With This Zombie-Proof Log Cabin Kit.

President of Belarus declares country's sausage is free of toilet paper


World's oldest genitals found (yes, I know - the Hugh Hefner jokes just write themselves).

In 1976, Operation Paul Bunyan was conducted into North Korea to take down a tree.

ICYMI, Friday's links are here, and include (without limitation) an illustrated guide for girding up your loins (and additional manly links), a compilation of Rita Hayward's dancing set to Stayin' Alive, and Quentin Tarantino's 1995 episode of ER.

Monday, October 20, 2014

In 1959 Issac Asimov wrote a paper for DARPA on creativity. It was just published today

In 1959 Asimov (wiki) was approached by DARPA (at the time it was ARPA) to think about how ideas are formed. His brief work for the organization has never been published.

Via Arthur Obermayer:
(Asimov) expressed his willingness and came to a few meetings. He eventually decided not to continue, because he did not want to have access to any secret classified information; it would limit his freedom of expression. Before he left, however, he wrote this essay on creativity as his single formal input. This essay was never published or used beyond our small group. When I recently rediscovered it while cleaning out some old files, I recognized that its contents are as broadly relevant today as when he wrote it. It describes not only the creative process and the nature of creative people but also the kind of environment that promotes creativity.
Excerpt below from ON CREATIVITY - Isaac Asimov Mulls “How Do People Get New Ideas?”:

How do people get new ideas?

Presumably, the process of creativity, whatever it is, is essentially the same in all its branches and varieties, so that the evolution of a new art form, a new gadget, a new scientific principle, all involve common factors. We are most interested in the “creation” of a new scientific principle or a new application of an old one, but we can be general here.

One way of investigating the problem is to consider the great ideas of the past and see just how they were generated. Unfortunately, the method of generation is never clear even to the “generators” themselves.

But what if the same earth-shaking idea occurred to two men, simultaneously and independently? Perhaps, the common factors involved would be illuminating. Consider the theory of evolution by natural selection, independently created by Charles Darwin and Alfred Wallace.

There is a great deal in common there. Both traveled to far places, observing strange species of plants and animals and the manner in which they varied from place to place. Both were keenly interested in finding an explanation for this, and both failed until each happened to read Malthus’s “Essay on Population.”

Both then saw how the notion of overpopulation and weeding out (which Malthus had applied to human beings) would fit into the doctrine of evolution by natural selection (if applied to species generally).

Obviously, then, what is needed is not only people with a good background in a particular field, but also people capable of making a connection between item 1 and item 2 which might not ordinarily seem connected.

Undoubtedly in the first half of the 19th century, a great many naturalists had studied the manner in which species were differentiated among themselves. A great many people had read Malthus. Perhaps some both studied species and read Malthus. But what you needed was someone who studied species, read Malthus, and had the ability to make a cross-connection.

That is the crucial point that is the rare characteristic that must be found. Once the cross-connection is made, it becomes obvious. Thomas H. Huxley is supposed to have exclaimed after reading On the Origin of Species, “How stupid of me not to have thought of this.”

But why didn’t he think of it? The history of human thought would make it seem that there is difficulty in thinking of an idea even when all the facts are on the table. Making the cross-connection requires a certain daring. It must, for any cross-connection that does not require daring is performed at once by many and develops not as a “new idea,” but as a mere “corollary of an old idea.”

It is only afterward that a new idea seems reasonable. To begin with, it usually seems unreasonable. It seems the height of unreason to suppose the earth was round instead of flat, or that it moved instead of the sun, or that objects required a force to stop them when in motion, instead of a force to keep them moving, and so on.

A person willing to fly in the face of reason, authority, and common sense must be a person of considerable self-assurance. Since he occurs only rarely, he must seem eccentric (in at least that respect) to the rest of us. A person eccentric in one respect is often eccentric in others.

Consequently, the person who is most likely to get new ideas is a person of good background in the field of interest and one who is unconventional in his habits. (To be a crackpot is not, however, enough in itself.)

Once you have the people you want, the next question is: Do you want to bring them together so that they may discuss the problem mutually, or should you inform each of the problem and allow them to work in isolation?

My feeling is that as far as creativity is concerned, isolation is required. The creative person is, in any case, continually working at it. His mind is shuffling his information at all times, even when he is not conscious of it. (The famous example of Kekule working out the structure of benzene in his sleep is well-known.)

The presence of others can only inhibit this process, since creation is embarrassing. For every new good idea you have, there are a hundred, ten thousand foolish ones, which you naturally do not care to display.

Nevertheless, a meeting of such people may be desirable for reasons other than the act of creation itself.

No two people exactly duplicate each other’s mental stores of items. One person may know A and not B, another may know B and not A, and either knowing A and B, both may get the idea—though not necessarily at once or even soon.

Furthermore, the information may not only be of individual items A and B, but even of combinations such as A-B, which in themselves are not significant. However, if one person mentions the unusual combination of A-B and another unusual combination A-C, it may well be that the combination A-B-C, which neither has thought of separately, may yield an answer.

It seems to me then that the purpose of cerebration sessions is not to think up new ideas but to educate the participants in facts and fact-combinations, in theories and vagrant thoughts.

But how to persuade creative people to do so? First and foremost, there must be ease, relaxation, and a general sense of permissiveness. The world in general disapproves of creativity, and to be creative in public is particularly bad. Even to speculate in public is rather worrisome. The individuals must, therefore, have the feeling that the others won’t object.

If a single individual present is unsympathetic to the foolishness that would be bound to go on at such a session, the others would freeze. The unsympathetic individual may be a gold mine of information, but the harm he does will more than compensate for that. It seems necessary to me, then, that all people at a session be willing to sound foolish and listen to others sound foolish.

If a single individual present has a much greater reputation than the others, or is more articulate, or has a distinctly more commanding personality, he may well take over the conference and reduce the rest to little more than passive obedience. The individual may himself be extremely useful, but he might as well be put to work solo, for he is neutralizing the rest. 

Read the whole thing at Technology Review.

Related: 


Dog lovers, start your day with a smile: Compilation Video of Puppies Chasing Laser Pointers

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Alzheimer's patient singer/songwriter Glen Campbell writes powerful, heartbreaking final song: "I'm Not Gonna Miss You"

After being diagnosed with Alzheimer's in 2011, 78 year-old country music singer/songwriter Glen Campbell recorded the footage in this music video (other than the old videos, of course) as his disease progressed; the final sessions are from last year (2013). Currently in stage 6 of the disease, he's been living in a full-time care facility in Nashville since March of this year.


Part of the lyrics he sings to his wife, Kim:

You're the last person I will love
You're the last face I will recall
And best of all, I'm not gonna miss you.
Not gonna miss you.

I'm never gonna hold you like I did
Or say I love you to the kids
You're never gonna see it in my eyes
It's not gonna hurt me when you cry

I'm never gonna know what you go through
All the things I say or do
All the hurt and all the pain
One thing selfishly remains

I'm not gonna miss you
I'm not gonna miss you

Here's the Alzheimer's Association website, and here's more on Campbell and his Alzheimer's.

My massaman curry recipe (by request)

This is a non-spicy recipe, since I'm a wimp. Add some Sriracha (or something similar) at the same time you add the potatoes and coconut milk, or if you have a normal people/wimp mix, just serve it at the table.

Massaman Curry

1/4 cup peanut (or vegetable) oil 

1/2 cup Massaman curry paste (there are a lot of curry pastes, and they probably all taste good, but I use this and I really like it)

2 Tbs fresh minced ginger

1 Tbs fresh minced garlic

1 chopped onion (optional)

2-1/2 pounds chicken breast - cubed

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup fish sauce

1/3 cup tamarind paste

1/3 cup peanut butter

6 cups cubed potatoes

2 (13.5 oz) cans coconut milk

1/3 cup fresh lime juice (about 2 limes worth)

1/2 cup unsalted peanuts, coarsely chopped

Directions:

Heat vegetable oil over medium heat in a pot big enough to hole everything. Stir in curry paste and minced ginger; cook and stir for 5 minutes or so. Stir in the chicken, and cook, stirring them around for about 8 - 10 minutes.

Stir in brown sugar, fish sauce, tamarind paste, peanut butter, potatoes, and coconut milk. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat as low as it will go, cover, and simmer for at least 30 minutes. Add the lime juice and cook for an additional 5 minutes before serving. 

I think this is usually served with white rice, but you can also just eat it as is. Serve with chopped peanuts and hot sauce.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Friday links

How to Gird Up Your Loins: An Illustrated Guide.


Quentin Tarantino Directed a 1995 Episode of ER.

Rita Hayworth was born on this date in 1918. Here's an excellent compilation of her dancing, set to Stayin' Alive


Things That Are Hilariously Similar To Each Other (this is an open list, so you can add to it. Numbers 18 and 21 are my favorites).

ICYMI, Tuesdays links are here, and include lots of stuff about the Battle of Hastings, a gallery of stairs that lead nowhere, Halloween ideas from the 1880's, and the McDonald from McDonald's restaurants.

Happy Birthday, Rita Hayworth (born 1918): here's an excellent compilation of her dancing, set to Stayin' Alive

Today is the 96th anniversary of the birth of superstar American movie actress and dancer Rita Hayworth (1918-1987) in Brooklyn. Born Margarita Carmen Cansino to two professional dancers, Hayworth started dance lessons at an early age and in 1927 moved with her family to Hollywood, where her father had hoped to land dancing parts in the movies. Finding minimal success, he formed a dance act with his daughter, and since she was too young to appear in night clubs in California, they performed across the border in Tijuana. 

This 1941 photograph of Rita Hayworth
became one of the most popular
pin-ups among U.S. servicemen during
 World War II. Life magazine, however,
 decided it was too risque to put
on their cover
Hayworth's career really took off in the early 1940s, and by 1944, when she appeared with Gene Kelly in Cover Girl, she was one of the hottest stars in Hollywood, and in Charles Vidor's erotic film noir, Gilda (1946), she established herself as a leading femme fatale. 

She was married and divorced five times, and counted among her husbands Orson Welles, Prince Aly Khan (by whom she had two daughters), and Dick Haymes. Late in life, she suffered from alcoholism and died of Alzheimer's disease in New York City in 1987.) She was quoted in 1977 as saying, 

"Men fell in love with Gilda, but they wake up with me."

Dancing in Tijuana when I was 13 - that was my "summer camp." How else could I keep up with Fred Astaire when I was 19?
~Rita Hayworth (New York Times, 25 October 1970)

Apparently this has been around for a while, but I hadn't seen it. Watch full screen.