Some odd stories, some scary stories:
- Microsoft has released a report on Russia's ongoing cyber attacks against Ukraine.
- Contra David Ignatius, military policy experts Dr Jack Watling and Nick Reynolds call Russia's invasion of Ukraine "the death throes of imperial delusion" and warn that Putin will likely escalate the conflict rather than face humiliation.
- Russia historian Tom Nichols puts all of this together and worries about World War III—"not the rhetorical World War III loosely talked about now, but the real thing, including the deaths of hundreds of millions."
- The Saudi Royal Family finally returned a Boeing 747-8 to the manufacturer after it had sat on the apron in Basel, Switzerland, for 10 years. The plane has 42 hours on it but may have to be scrapped.
- In other B747 news, Boeing admitted to $1.1 billion in cost overruns for the four planes the Air Force ordered to carry the President. Boeing will eat the costs after making a deal with the XPOTUS for a fixed-price contract. The Air Force should receive the planes in 2026.
- George Will thinks we should amend the Constitution to prohibit people who have served as US Senators from becoming President. He argues that too many senators use their office to run for president. But since World War II, all but one former senator who became president came from the Democratic Party (Biden, Obama, Nixon, LBJ, JFK, Truman), so I'm not sure it would pass the States even if it didn't also have to pass the Senate.
Finally, DuPage County officials have demolished a partially-completed mansion that sat vacant for 10 years, to the eternal sadness of its owner.
Today we celebrate the big rock that gives us days in the first place. One out of 364 is pretty good, I guess. And there are some good stories on my open browser tabs:
Finally, the Defense Department will open a Defense Innovation Unit just down the street from my current office in June. I knew about these plans a couple of years ago when I worked on an unclassified project for the US Military Enrollment Processing Command and was looking forward to it. I'm glad it's finally gotten to Chicago.
Max Boot draws a straight line between the military Republican politicians say they want and the awful military Russian actually has:
Right-wingers have long claimed that the U.S. military should not be hobbled by humanitarian considerations or even the laws of war. During the Vietnam War, when U.S. aircraft dropped more bombs than during World War II, many conservatives fumed that we were fighting with one hand tied behind our backs. “Bomb them back into the Stone Age,” Gen. Curtis LeMay demanded. Most of the public supported 2nd Lt. William L. Calley, the only perpetrator of the infamous My Lai massacre (when U.S. troops killed more than 500 civilians) to be convicted by a court-martial. He served only three years of house arrest.
By right-wing lights, Russia should have the world’s greatest army. The Russian military, after all, is as illiberal, or “un-woke,” as it is possible to get.
Yet, despite the Russian army’s lack of wokeness and its proclivity for war crimes, it is not, in fact, a capable military force.
The brutalization of Russian soldiers, combined with the corruption of their officers, detracts from unit cohesion and therefore from combat performance. No doubt the abuse inflicted on Russian soldiers by their comrades makes them more willing to abuse civilians, but this, too, undercuts the professionalism of the Russian military.
The rot in the Russian military spreads from the head, of course. Much like the Republican Party over here.
In an authoritarian regime, telling your boss that he did something wrong can have fatal consequences. Therefore people avoid mentioning problems up the chain. Like, for example, that mandating the army use only Russian-made mobile phones, even though Western electronics have progressed years or decades beyond them, might leave the army at a disadvantage in combat. Similarly, as an engineer, you might not tell your superiors that blowing up the enemy's 3G cell towers will render your 3G phones unusable, even while the enemy gets along fine with 4G.
So by not wanting to risk your life or career by telling a general that his plan sucks, the general might wind up dead and you might wind up informing the world on an open channel, like these FSB guys did:
A Russian general has been killed in fighting around Kharkiv, Ukrainian intelligence has claimed, which would make him the second general the Russian army has lost in Ukraine in a week.
The investigative journalism agency Bellingcat said it had confirmed Gerasimov’s death with a Russian source. Its executive director, Christo Grozev, said they had also identified the senior FSB officer in the intercepted conversation.
“In the call, you hear the Ukraine-based FSB officer ask his boss if he can talk via the secure Era system. The boss says Era is not working,” [Bellingcat executive director Christo] Grozev said on Twitter. “Era is a super expensive cryptophone system that [Russia’s defence ministry] introduced in 2021 with great fanfare. It guaranteed [to] work ‘in all conditions’.”
Grozev's Twitter thread has a point of view, of course, but wow. It's almost like the Russian military wants to lose this war. "The Russian army is equipped with secure phones that can't work in areas where the Russian army operates," Grozev Tweeted.
Sixty years ago yesterday, on 30 October 1961, the Soviet Union detonated the most destructive bomb ever designed:
The bhangmeter results and other data suggested the bomb yielded around 58 Mt (243 PJ), which was the accepted yield in technical literature until 1991, when Soviet scientists revealed that their instruments indicated a yield of 50 Mt (209 PJ). As they had the instrumental data and access to the test site, their yield figure has been accepted as more accurate. In theory, the bomb would have had a yield in excess of 100 Mt (418 PJ) if it had included the uranium-238 fusion tamper which figured in the design but which was omitted in the test to reduce radioactive fallout. Because only one bomb was built to completion, that capability has never been demonstrated. The remaining bomb casings are located at the Russian Atomic Weapon Museum in Sarov and the Museum of Nuclear Weapons, All-Russian Scientific Research Institute Of Technical Physics, in Snezhinsk.
In the summer of 2020, Russia declassified a 40-minute documentary film about the explosion, which you can watch here:
It's fascinating, not only for its direct content, but also for the historical fun of trying to figure out which parts are total lies and which parts are merely whitewashing. (When they start talking about the lack of significant explosion effects on nearby settlements, that game gets more interesting.)
I was pretty busy today, with most of my brain trying to figure out how to re-architect something that I didn't realize needed it until recently. So a few things piled up in my inbox:
And finally, Whisky Advocate has four recipes that balance whisky and Luxardo Maraschino cherries. I plan to try them all, but not in one sitting.
Some of these will actually have to wait until tomorrow morning:
And now, I will feed the dog.
Today marks the 150th anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire, which burned for two days and left 100,000 people homeless. But only for a short time; by 1874, when the city had a second big fire, our population had already grown by about that number.
Flash forward to now:
Finally, last night I attended an actual live theater performance for the first time in 19 months, and it was amazeballs. If you live in Chicago, right now you need to go to the Chicago Shakespeare Theater website and buy tickets to As You Like It, which plays through November 21st.
Just as I did a year ago, I'm planning to walk up to Lake Bluff today, and once again the weather has cooperated. I'll take cloudy skies and 25°C for a 43-kilometer hike. (I would prefer 20°C and cloudy, but I'll take 25°C anyway.)
As I enjoy my breakfast in my sunny, airy office right now, mentally preparing for a (literal) marathon hike, life feels good. Well, until I read these things:
And hey, all you other Chicago athletes, good news! The City now has a website where you can find out the likelihood of the Chicago River giving you explosive diarrhea!
Only about 7 more hours of meteorological summer remain in Chicago. I opened my windows this afternoon for the first time in more than two weeks, which made debugging a pile of questionable code* more enjoyable.
Said debugging required me to put these aside for future reading:
Finally, one tiny bit of good news: more Americans believe in evolution than ever before, perhaps due to the success of the SARS-COV-2 virus at evolving.
Goodbye, Summer 2021. It's been a hoot.
* Three guesses who wrote the questionable code. Ahem.