Posts by Stephen R

  • Hard News: The next four years, in reply to Luke Williamson,

    Russia has experienced multiple invasions, including by US military during the Russian civil war 1918.

    True. But they've also done their share of invading. Poland was invaded in 1939 by Germany and Russia, and over the course of WW2 lost something like 20% of their population. The Russians weren't kinder to the locals than the Germans.

    Ukraine in WW2 was split between Germany and Russia. A Ukrainian ex-co-worker of mine said that of course a lot of the current opposition to Russia was from organisations that used to be pro-Nazi, because when they started, the two choices were Hitler or Stalin.

    A bunch of my friends in Finland told me that "Last time we had to surrender to Russia because we ran out of bullets, next time we won't run out" - others are telling me they're woken up in the suburbs of Helsinki by the fighter jets doing high-speed take-offs to intercept the Russian aircraft who are "accidentally" entering Finnish airspace. Many of the things that Russia used as pretexts in Ukraine also apply to Finland (Finland used to be ruled by Russia, and has people on the eastern borders who speak Russian)

    Russia is scaring a lot of people in Europe at the moment. They're not the poor picked-on victim.

    Wellington • Since Jul 2009 • 235 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: The next four years, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    China and the US face off, the yuan becomes non-convertible, exports to China dry up, mortgage funding follows, Auckland house prices drop by 80%, all the banks crash under the weight of bad debts, people can no longer get paid or buy food.

    That's pretty bad...

    Add in Trump assuring Putin that the US won't fulfill it's NATO obligations to defend some of the countries next to Russia (say Poland or Finland), or picking a fight with China over the Spratleys or Taiwan, and you could throw a shooting war in to the mix as well.

    Wellington • Since Jul 2009 • 235 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: The next four years, in reply to Emma Hart,

    People I figured had some capacity for thought seem sort of excited about it, if anything.

    So one of the predictive questions on OKCupid is “In a certain light, wouldn’t nuclear war be exciting?” For men, a yes on that has an 83% correlation with wanting sex on the first date. The other questions that correlate like that for men are “Assuming you were in the position to do so, would you launch nuclear weapons under any circumstances?” and “Could you imagine yourself killing someone?”

    I suspect there's age influences there. As I get older, I can still imagine myself killing someone, and most of what I imagine is pretty terrible and not at all attractive. I find subjects and movies that I used to really enjoy a lot less attractive, as I imagine the effects on the unseen people. Second order empathy - it can be learned!

    (I found "the War Prayer" quite thought provoking, and it has stayed with me a long time.)

    Applied to politics, the people who think that "interesting times" are interesting, probably aren't thinking of the people for whom even minor extra difficulties could be enough to sink them.

    Wellington • Since Jul 2009 • 235 posts Report Reply

  • Speaker: Shenzen's hire-bike explosion,

    Guardian reckons that Shenzen's still got some work to do on public attitudes to bike hire...

    Wellington • Since Jul 2009 • 235 posts Report Reply

  • Up Front: Walk This Way, in reply to Carol Stewart,

    I'm going to the Wellington march, and am churning out a few Pussyhats as well. Here's the pattern for craftily-minded readers.

    My partner finished her one this evening. It's very pink.

    Looks like we're going as well,

    Wellington • Since Jul 2009 • 235 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: The fake news problem, in reply to Dennis Frank,

    Now that the pendulum has swung to the other extreme, younger generations will have to reinvent community as a survival strategy.

    One of the side effects of our technology is that my community is not the people I live next to any more. I know more about and have more in common with some people in Finland than I do the people three doors down my street. And my "local" community of interest is people spread around Wellington and the rest of New Zealand more than my suburb.

    I'm not sure that's a good thing, I'm not sure it's a bad thing, but it is a bit different.

    Wellington • Since Jul 2009 • 235 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Do e-bikes ease traffic…, in reply to Joe Wylie,

    How about public e-bikes in China? I’ve heard that even provincial cities have installed networks of swipe card operated bikes.

    I don't know about China, but we recently saw ranks of swipe-card operated e-bikes in Japan, in similar racks to the bike-share systems I saw in in Copenhagen, Gothenburg and Paris.

    In Japan they seem to share the footpath with pedestrians, but I never saw one going much faster than a jogging pace.

    Wellington • Since Jul 2009 • 235 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Do e-bikes ease traffic…, in reply to BenWilson,

    My gut feeling is that e-bikes create a form of user, rather than converting one.

    Speaking for myself and my wife, I hadn't ridden a bicycle for 10 years before I got the e-bike (pretty much since I left Christchurch and moved to Wellington). My wife had bought a manual bike a couple of years beforehand intending to commute on it, but the hill at the end of the trip home meant she never did it more than a couple of times.

    Since I got it, when the weather's nice and we don't have plans after work that require travelling somewhere else, I'll bike. So in summer that's about 2-4 times a week in Wellington :) That's enough that half way through summer I'm fit enough that I'd ride a manual bike if I had one, but I'm not quite keen enough to go buy one on the strength of that.

    If I'm not biking, it's still cheaper (and way more convenient) to take the car in and pay parking than catch the bus for two people.

    Wellington • Since Jul 2009 • 235 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: From Zero: The Meth Episode, in reply to andin,

    WWII both sides had their own variant, while I have heard hints of that no one has ever come out and said it.

    The Germans had Methamphetamines in the form of Pervitin and the US and UK were using Amphetamines (with brand name Benzedrine).
    I've heard it said that the first thing the Russian soldiers would do when they captured Germans was go through their pockets for Pervitin, because it was better than what they were issued.

    from a drug history site:

    Nicolas Rasmussen, “Medical Science and the Military: The Allies’ Use of Amphetamine During World War II,” Journal of Interdisciplinary History 42, no. 2 (2011): 205–233. Concludes that the “grounds on which amphetamine was actually adopted by both British and American militaries had less to do with the science of fatigue than with the drug’s mood-altering effects, as judged by military men. It increased confidence and aggression, and elevated ‘morale.'”

    and from

    A brochure about the fatigue from the British Air Ministry printed in 1943 revealed, however, that there was knowledge about the cons of amphetamine:

    “Anyone who takes amphetamine feel that he has full control over the situation and that he can continue to perform his duties without rest, he finds that he can perform well, when in fact he makes all kinds of mistakes.”

    That seems to be the big trap - it makes you think you're in control...

    Wellington • Since Jul 2009 • 235 posts Report Reply

  • Hard News: Do e-bikes ease traffic…, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    Sounds like a great reason for their being open source and software controlled.

    There is the Copenhagen wheel which is controlled from your smartphone (but isn't open source.)
    It basically turns your bike into a pedal assist e-bike for around US$1000, but isn't in commercial production yet (I think it's been delivered to some of the kickstarter backers, and the company spun off to commercialise it has sued some patent infringement lawsuits against competitors)

    I'm not sure why my bike is particular evidence for the failings of commercial versions, since the way it works is a bunch of compromises between how long the battery lasts, how much peddling you want to do, and how fast you want to go. I have reasonable control over those things now, by varying how much battery assist I want (I usually pick 4 out of 5), and how much I pedal.

    I'm not sure how changing the software will change those choices.

    Wellington • Since Jul 2009 • 235 posts Report Reply

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