The Ukraine: Where from here?

I am nobody. But I’m going to offer my opinion on the war in Ukraine anyway. My entire of set of qualifications consists of being a lifelong reader, having done my minimum amount of service in the US Army in the 80s (GI Bill, baby), having lived and travelled in Russia (and the Ukraine) for the better part of 14 years and (possibly most relevant) having played and even mastered basically the best of every tactical or strategic war-game of its era from checkers, through the classics from Avalon Hill to Halo or XCOM. Here’s what I see coming.

CCCP Tanks

[for real references see @jominiW, @kamilkazani, @WarintheFuture, @markhertling, @OSINTdefender, @malcomnance, @RALee85, @liveuamap, @iliapomarenko, @jsrailton, @bellingcat] on Twitter

The Russian army is not going to be able to encircle and capture (let alone hold) Kyiv, Kharkiv, or any other major city (I’ll come to Mariupol in a minute) and will not be able to sustain unthreatened supply lines from the east (Sumy) through to Kyiv to maintain an attacking army from that direction. As for the attack line from the north/west, that will also be blunted by the Ukrainian ground forces, but sustaining it in offence or defence should be more possible for Russia, provided they continue to get assistance from Belarus. I don’t believe Russia will risk an amphibious assault on Odesa unless they can take and hold a crossing on the Southern Bug River, which I also don’t think they can, and it appears they also wont hold whatever portion of Kherson they currently hold. The Battle for Mykolaiv will be an epic if it occurs, but I don’t think we are headed there.

The supporters of the Ukraine are winning the war of information at present. The funny-because-its-true memes and Zelensky speaking directly to the Russian people and troops is getting through in some measure. I can still ring up most anyone I want in Russia and the Ukraine and talk on a more secure line than most Russian generals apparently. The low-grade garbage being pumped out by Russian backers just doesn’t compare in either factualness or pointedness. Yes, at present, more than 50% of the Russian population still is in favour of “Z” war, but they have had 12 years of being steeped in propaganda that makes Fox News look like fascist high school rag. Average Russians, in my experience are both (a) pretty smart and (b) don’t trust their government with a fervour that comes from the Soviet Union. Given the losses in the thousands that are already being reported in the small towns across Russia, the fact that they still have some Internet and access to fact based reporting (via VPN), the Russian population will turn against Putin’s war more rapidly than we might expect. Here’s hoping it’s faster than a British tabloid on their soccer team once he is seen as a loser. He’s already afraid of his population enough that they have BTR on the streets to prevent protests in as far away as Yuzhno.

BTR

But he’s cunning. He was head of the KGB in East Germany, then the Soviet Union, and was (at one point in time at least) a reader of history. So, I think that Putin is scratching around now for what will appear to be a win that he can try to sell to his population prior to assassination or another revolution. [On a side note, wouldn’t it be poetic justice to see that motherfucker be poisoned, given his form in killing his adversaries (often with Poison). Russians are the gold medal holders for poisoning, I can tell you.] I think Putin’s prime objective at present is to take Mariupol and to seal a land bridge between the Russia and Crimea. If he does that, they then sell the fact that they have wiped out the Nazis (Azov Battalion) in their hometown, and secured the “russified” portion of the Ukraine east of the Dnipro River. Then he will try to negotiate.

But this is why Mariupol is both key to Putin, and will also not be completely taken. It’s going to be one of the most destructive and deadly sieges since Stalingrad, but also take way too long, require heavy Russian losses and hold all over their attention while Ukraine then can attempt successful strategic recapture of territory in the north. From what I read, citizens that remain are already preparing the ‘Stalingrad Academy’ for the invaders, both in Mariupol and Odesa. We should do all we can quietly to ensure a Ukrainian success in Mariupol, as well as relief for the heros who live and die there. My sincerest apologies to the population of the Ukraine I am condemning to death with my writing the paragraphs above.

Win or lose in Mariupol, it will be time for negotiations with Putin, so how should that go:

Vova Meme

First off, fuck an off ramp for Putin. In my world, this sort of evil dictatorial warfare on ones neighbour is not met with acceptance of any short term gains on the battlefield by the aggressor. If I am the Ukraine, or even the majority of the reasonable world of nation states, I want to see return of stolen territory and reparations for the infrastructure and civilian losses sustained in this lie of a war (threat from NATO or de-nazification, pffft!) and by this I mean Donetsk, Luhansk and yes even the Crimea (provided I can show in the international criminal court following the cessation of hostilities that the little green men after a false-flag operation there was illegal annexation by Russia, and I think I can). So, he’s gonna need to agree to the decision of the ICC as part of the settlement. If not, continue to isolate Russia diplomatically and economically and arm the Ukraine so they can take their own lands back. After its all over, lets have some truly free and fair elections in all the territories above and just see what’s in the final Ukraine and what’s part of Russia, how about that?
The world should drive an incredibly hard bargain with Putin that requires all the above, and let’s the Ukraine do whatever the fuck it wants in the future as an independent nation. But require nothing unreasonable. We don’t require a regime change in Russia, as that is for the Russians to decide, but we reserve the right to continue to ostracise the current government until it changes. No dealings with Putin into the future.
But we also need one thing more. We need a Marshall Plan for the Ukraine and for Russia once it’s all over. The Ukraine obviously needs a serious rebuild of infrastructure, heavy humanitarian support and also setup of a good sustainable bureaucracy for liberal democracy. Russia is going to need re-integration into the word financial and economic systems and a huge amount of development of their sustainable bureaucracy for liberal democracy. Had we engaged with Russia better in the first place after the fall of the Soviet Union, they’d currently be led by a coalition government from the “Apple” party in coalition with some technocrats and greens and the communists would still have a nub of 2 seats in the duma just as a reminder of what a fucking joke they are at governing. Instead, they have a one-party state that is as bad and corrupt as late stage Yeltsinism. So let’s fix that up this time. Then, you know what, I don’t give a fuck if in 20 years Russia or the Ukraine agrees with my country on everything or even most things, as long as it’s a representative liberal democracy. Real success in the world isn’t about control, it’s about self control.
I also have opinions on how to deal with a Russian nuclear threat, but that’s for later.
The Russian army is not going to be able to encircle and capture (let alone hold) Kyiv, Kharkiv, or any other major city (I’ll come to Mariupol in a minute) and will not be able to sustain unthreatened supply lines from the east (Sumy) through to Kyiv to maintain an attacking army from that direction. As for the attack line from the north/west, that will also be blunted by the Ukrainian ground forces, but sustaining it in offence or defence should be more possible for Russia, provided they continue to get assistance from Belarus. I don’t believe Russia will risk an amphibious assault on Odesa unless they can take and hold a crossing on the Southern Bug River, which I also don’t think they can, and it appears they also wont hold whatever portion of Kherson they currently hold. The Battle for Mykolaiv will be an epic if it occurs, but I don’t think we are headed there.
The supporters of the Ukraine are winning the war of information at present. The funny-because-its-true memes and Zelensky speaking directly to the Russian people and troops is getting through in some measure. I can still ring up most anyone I want in Russia and the Ukraine and talk on a more secure line than most Russian generals apparently. The low-grade garbage being pumped out by Russian backers just doesn’t compare in either factualness or pointedness. Yes, at present, more than 50% of the Russian population still is in favour of “Z” war, but they have had 12 years of being steeped in propaganda that makes Fox News look like fascist high school rag. Average Russians, in my experience are both (a) pretty smart and (b) don’t trust their government with a fervour that comes from the Soviet Union. Given the losses in the thousands that are already being reported in the small towns across Russia, the fact that they still have some Internet and access to fact based reporting (via VPN), the Russian population will turn against Putin’s war more rapidly than we might expect. Here’s hoping it’s faster than a British tabloid on their soccer team once he is seen as a loser. He’s already afraid of his population enough that they have BTR on the streets to prevent protests in as far away as Yuzhno

Happy Birthday J. Willard Gibbs!

Josiah Willard Gibbs (Feb 11, 1839 to 28 April 1903)
First Doctorate of Engineering Awarded in the US (1863) by Yale
Royal Academy of Science – Copley Medal Award in 1901
American Academy of Science 1873
If I could go back in time, I would hire J. Willard Gibbs a publicist. Just that one thing, so that his brilliance could have been appreciated at the time, as well as now, in a time when we could desperately use a widespread understanding of thermodynamics, they way we innately understand gravity.
Gibbs is never recorded as ever having used the term ‘thermodynamics’ in his life, although he is known as the father of modern thermodynamics by all chemical and mechanical engineers who study the field. Gibbs instead called his area of work ‘Statistical Mechanics’. And what is that, exactly. His work is what is known as equations of state, or mathematical representations of the energies of systems of particles in whatever phase (solid, liquid or gas) they are currently at.
Through his complex equations of state for matter as individual particles, he allowed the science of thermodynamics to come into being, such that physical chemistry can be expressed as an inductive science. Previously, this area of science was only able to be understood heuristically, through direct experimentation and recordkeeping (as done by Joule-Thompson in the invention of the constant enthalpy expansion valve which is the basis of LNG liquefaction). Through Gibbs’ work, we can predict the values for systems mathematically without needing to verify the result through experimentation. It also allows us to accurately calculate work that is required to be put into (or can be taken out of) a system of mass and energy in balance. These become important in the design and operation of any mechanical, electrical or industrial system used to make anything.
Conceptually, the leap that Gibbs made to understand the mass and energy balance of a whole system was to be able to visualise it in 3D, so that you can then speculate on one additional variable in addition to what you visualise. The fourth dimension is time. This is why representations of the equations of state for a substance look like sculptures of Salvador Dali, warped bulging blobs with temperature and pressure contour lines inscribed on the surface. They are difficult to grasp for some, and many lose interest in the subject here
Happy 182nd birthday Josiah Willard Gibbs (Feb 11, 1839 to 28 April 1903)
  • First Doctorate of Engineering Awarded in the US (1863) by Yale
  • Royal Academy of Science – Copley Medal Award in 1901
  • American Academy of Science 1873
If I could go back in time, I would hire J. Willard Gibbs a publicist. Just that one thing, so that his brilliance could have been appreciated at the time, as well as now, in a time when we could desperately use a widespread understanding of thermodynamics, they way we innately understand gravity.
Gibbs is never recorded as ever having used the term ‘thermodynamics’ in his life, although he is known as the father of modern thermodynamics by all chemical and mechanical engineers who study the field. Gibbs instead called his area of work ‘Statistical Mechanics’. And what is that, exactly. His work is what is known as equations of state, or mathematical representations of the energies of systems of particles in whatever phase (solid, liquid or gas) they are currently at.
Through his complex equations of state for matter as individual particles, he allowed the science of thermodynamics to come into being, such that physical chemistry can be expressed as an inductive science. Previously, this area of science was only able to be understood heuristically, through direct experimentation and record-keeping (as done by Joule-Thompson in the invention of the constant enthalpy expansion valve which is the basis of LNG liquefaction). Through Gibbs’ work, we can predict the values for systems mathematically without needing to verify the result through experimentation. It also allows us to accurately calculate work that is required to be put into (or can be taken out of) a system of mass and energy in balance. These become important in the design and operation of any mechanical, electrical or industrial system used to make anything.
Conceptually, the leap that Gibbs made to understand the mass and energy balance of a whole system was to be able to visualise it in 3D, so that you can then speculate on one additional variable in addition to what you visualise. The fourth dimension is time. This is why representations of the equations of state for a substance look like sculptures of Salvador Dali, warped bulging blobs with temperature and pressure contour lines inscribed on the surface. They are difficult to grasp for some, and many lose interest in the subject here.
Cover of 1946 Forbes with Gibbs as surrealist art

Cover of 1946 Forbes with Gibbs phase diagram as surrealist art

What Gibbs did was describe thermodynamics as a fully formed theoretical structure, taking into account complex systems of multiple compounds in whatever their state (solid, liquid or gas). These equations also fully account for the variables for entropy, expressed in terms of change, with reference to systems in equilibrium or irreversible in time. So, even though we will never be able to directly measure entropy, and it remains as misunderstood today as is dark matter, we can never-the-less fully account for it in any system of mass and energy.
Basically, he’s the guy that put boundaries around chaos. Because that is essentially what entropy is, the state of chaos within a system. And we need to account for this chaos every time we evaluate a system, whether it is power plant running my town, or climate change on a global scale.
I know what you’re thinking, sure that’s good stuff, but it isn’t that brilliant. Two things. Along the way, in order to express himself, he invented vector mathematics. His method was later adapted into a textbook in 1902 “Vector Analysis” which remains the basis of this area of calculus to this day. If you have ever worked out a dot-product or cross-product of a set of vectors in a math class, you have used Gibbs invention, for which he was never paid a cent. In addition, Gibbs’ laws related to the equations of state and irreversibility are consistent with what was later discovered in quantum mechanics which hadn’t even been theorised until 50 years after Gibbs died (the resolution of Gibbs paradox related to the entropy of mixed gases). So he designed an areas of science that is consistent with revolutionary changes that followed (relativity and quantum mechanics). So take that Isaac Newton! (who had a very good publicist by the way)
The article “On the Equilibrium of Heterogeneous Substances” was the work for which he won the Copley Medal. And when I say article, that’s a pretty serious load test of that word. If fact the article was published in as a set of two articles of over 300 pages and containing exactly 700 equations published in 1875 and ’78. The article starts with statements that will become known as the first and second laws of thermodynamics “The energy of the universe is constant” and “The entropy of the universe trends toward a maximum”. The Copley Medal is the highest honour that the Royal Academy of Science bestows, so his brilliance was recognised at the time, but only by a very small number of people that could understand his work. It was said of his citation, “…only James Clerk Maxwell (electro-magnetic theory) could understand his work, and now he is dead” (when JCM died unexpectedly in 1879 at 49)
Albert Einstein said that Gibbs was one of the scientists in the history of the world that he most admired, calling him “the greatest mind in American history”
There was no Nobel Prize during Gibbs’ lifetime, but Gibbs’ work that won him the Copley Medal is cited by 17 Nobel Prize winners as formative in their work in areas as diverse as Economics, Electromagnetism, Crystallography and Biology. His work did not come into wide use until the 1950s when rapid industrial expansion and scientific study ‘caught up’.
“Elementary Principles of Statistical Mechanics”, the textbook written from his work in 1902, is essentially taught unchanged to students of thermodynamics to this day. Any engineer that learns the basics of unit operations (heat transfer, mass transfer and energy transfer) is beholden to Gibbs.
But Gibbs remains relatively unknown. Part of it had to do with his very quiet nature. He wasn’t a self-promoter, and while pleasant to his students, he rarely had any that could fully understand his work at the time, so he tended not to have many. Never married, no scandal and liked quietly off the inheritance of his parents that both died relatively early in his life.
Other than one brief trip overseas (3 years in Europe with his sisters), he lived his entire life in New Haven Connecticut, and taught at Yale College for is entire career (the first half unpaid).
So he definitely could have used a publicist. If he did, maybe today we would have many people asking the appropriate hard questions of climate change deniers, and those that try to sell us on ‘clean coal’ or carbon capture and storage systems which are not thermodynamically sound. We can solve climate change, an area I have been working in since 1988, but we can’t do it without following the four laws of thermodynamics. So it would be nice if we focused on the real things that we can do (often boring) and not focus on those that are imaginary (such as a perpetual motion machine).

Let me just add the caption here . . .

. . . for the photo of these two fucking ghouls posing with the son of the dead parents Andre and Jordan Anchondo.

Screen Shot 2019-08-10 at 10.24.53 am

“Great job getting the parents, now get this kid into a cage pronto”

Democracy In Montana

Now you all know I lay heaps of shit on the USA, and in particular the hillbillies that can come from the place I grew up. But there are pockets of resistance even in a seriously “Red” state that Trump won by a significant margin in 2016.

They have this tradition in the western USA of universities of making signs out of white rocks on the mountainsides to advertise say an “L” for Loyola University or a big “M” for the University of Montana.

So, see what some inventive folks have done to welcome Trump to a campaign rally in Missoula today.
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Crappy Midas

Reading a few headlines today, and thought, “Boy, I hate being pretty good at predicting the future, but only when it is bad news.”

And I first predicted it back in 2009

That’s the thing about climate change. It’s not picking the events that’s key to focus on, but looking at the trends. So predicting the chaos increase (entropy) is a no brainer when you add heat to a closed system.

Finding out your heroes are cretins

I remember one of the funniest things I saw early in my life in Australia was a poster of all the rare fish endemic to NSW published by the NSW Department of Parks and Wildlife. A very detailed scientific poster showing habitat and a painting (or lithograph) of something like 20 species of fish with other scientific facts about them (latin name, etc.) and . . . well the ‘and’ is punchline which was a 1 to 4 star rating of how “good eating” they are.

OK, so its a little dark humour, but funny as shit to have a government department playing straight man to a joke they didn’t know existed. I am reminded of this again today as I read about the namer of my favourite bird (Gouldian Finch) and, as a conservationist, his proclivity to consume the birds he examined and described in paint and words. Mmm mmm, them Rosellas are gorgeous , and tasty.
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Something for all of us to consider as we examine the conflicted and sometimes dark pasts of people with just celebrity or perhaps even our heroes as they continue to be exposed in the coming year. Beware the hero, because his arrival always heralds the demise of commoners such as yourself. Let’s just hope I don’t find out J Willard Gibbs died trying to make gold out of straw and shit or something.

I’m just glad . . .

. . . that these fucking morons aren’t in charge of my portfolio.

Hmmm, maybe I was on to something . . .

Because with even USA Today after you, clearly the word for you is repulsive. #repulsive

Sure, I also do movie reviews

OK, so lets say you are like me and you’re just a touch over anymore superhero films. Even the best more recent ones (Wonder Woman) always end up being a little bit formulaic and frankly, a little bit shit. So, I’ve pretty much sworn off the things, especially if theres a whole tag team of them required to take down a single baddie.

However, the new Thor might be an exception, as they have decided to get some real talent to direct it. If you have never seen any of Taika Waititi, then you are hoping for a pleasant surprise, and maybe it will approach some of his best work, which if you haven’t checked out you should devote 2 minutes to. After that maybe check out Eagle vs Shark, Boy, or What We Do in the Shadows

I’m With That Dick . . .

. . . or why the ABC should have all its funding eliminated for censoring me.

OK, in case you missed a very good Hard Quiz Last night in which Jim showed how to play (spoiler alert – by being a freak in his level of knowledge on his special subject AND on how to play game to win) you should try to catch it on iview, or wherever you stream or download content regularly (even, YouTube apparently) Here are the players:

Me on Hard Quiz

OK, so my decision to try to get on the show was one of those really long considered decisions I have made in my life, prompted by someone sitting next to you while watching season 1 and saying, “You should go on that show, you’re a fucking smartarse”

Having really no response to that, and a computer in my lap at the time, I logged into the advertised site, answered a few details about myself, took a quick test, and bada bing, I’m in. OK, so it was a bit more detailed than that, as after the quiz I had to do a Skype interview with a producer and take another untimed test in person. Now, since I live in the remotest part of the earth, and doing it all remotely, I’m thinking I might have been the only person in the west that applied and they let me in to meet a regional diversity policy foisted on the show by a Senate Estimates Committee.

But, sitting in the green room with Jim and Carolyn I found out that they went to auditions in person in Sydney and Melbourne, with lots and lots of other people. So apparently the tests were a little harder than I thought, or there definitely IS a regional diversity policy. I was congratulating Jim after the taping about what an obsessive level of knowledge he had about the Rockford Files, a pretty obscure US tv show from the 70s. It turns out that he had only picked it so that it fit his plan to not just go on Hard Quiz, but to WIN Hard Quiz. He binge watched every old episode of the show (122 of them), wrote himself out ‘hundreds of pages’ of test questions and answers and memorised them, and also binge watched every episode of Hard Quiz to plan his tactics (when to answer fast and when to think a bit). Now that’s some commitment.

So, it was a really fun experience, but I now have to side with Dick Smith and Pauline Hanson to demand that all of the ABCs funding be cut for censoring me. Why? Well, they cut out both of my zinger lines, one of which would have fulfilled one of my lifelong ambitions of cursing on national television, and the other because it was too “political” obviously. Dicks.

In the introductions, Tom asked me “Why did you pick thermodynamics? So that no one could steal off you”. I said, “No it was just an obscure area of my university degree that I found myself repeatedly needing to explain in the past 20 years in order to discuss with people how things like climate change are real and clean coal is bullshit”.

Then, after the perpetual motion machine answer yo see int he episode, I said, “Thats also a lot like how clean coal works.” This is a 100% true and provable statement, and also funny (well, to me)

Now the ABC could not claim that they cut my first line due to content (the word shit) because Tom curses all the time, uses sexual innuendo like a maestro, and in fact said the work “fuck” later in the same episode. So clearly they are trying to stifle factual funny comment that disagrees with their alt-right view on climate change, ‘clean coal’, ‘cold fusion’, and anything else they disagree with. This is why they don’t meet their existing charter or the recent changes in media law that requires them to present material “based on the preponderance of evidence”.

For, if they were to do that, they would have to give me my own half hour show for a season (or maybe just a 1 hour special on 11 Feb) to lampoon complete unscientific crap like clean coal , and basically do a man-crush puff piece on J Willard Gibbs. I could probably get Andrew Dice Clay to narrate. But I digress.

So fuck the ABC and cut all their funding I say, as I have direct evidence of their extreme anti-science censoring of me. Who would have though that nonce Dick Smith would be correct?

Finally, to add insult to injury, they caused me to waste something like 2 to 3 minutes of my allotted 15. Bastards.

So, join my revolution. When I was a young fellow, I heard the world’s comic genius George Carlin identify the 7 words you can’t say on TV, and made a goal to do so. If you want to try, he also identified an excellent alternative. What you want to do is get on TV, but not be the focus of the camera, like in the shot but behind the presenter. And you want to mouth (not say) “I hope all you stupid fucking lip readers are looking in”.

Enjoy your day. I now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.