Mesopotamia - Rudyard Kipling
They shall not return to us, the resolute, the young,
  The eager and whole-hearted whom we gave:
But the men who left them thriftily to die in their own dung,
  Shall they come with years and honour to the grave?
They shall not return to us; the strong men coldly slain
  In sight of help denied from day to day:
But the men who edged their agonies and chid them in their pain,
  Are they too strong and wise to put away?

Our dead shall not return to us while Day and Night divide--
  Never while the bars of sunset hold.
But the idle-minded overlings who quibbled while they died,
  Shall they thrust for high employments as of old?
Shall we only threaten and be angry for an hour:
  When the storm is ended shall we find
How softly but how swiftly they have sidled back to power
  By the favour and contrivance of their kind?
Even while they soothe us, while they promise large amends,
  Even while they make a show of fear,       
Do they call upon their debtors,  and  take  counsel  with  their
  To conform and re-establish each career?
Their lives cannot repay us--their death could not undo--
  The shame that they have laid upon our race. 
But the slothfulness that wasted and the arrogance that slew,
  Shell we leave it unabated in its place?

I don’t remember reading this poem before, especially not in context of the Iraq war. It was written in 1917. It could have been written yesterday.

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Filed under defense, iraq, poetry


Which of these things is not like the other:

showoff, kabul, afghanistan

Via @lizva, on the ground in Afghanistan.

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The future is here (we just can’t see it yet)

Here’s a thought for the day: the technology we see around is isn’t actually the state of the art. In fact, it’s generally a few years in the past.

Consider: gadgets generally take a few years to go from concept to prototype to product. Sometimes these leak out early, but usually not until the product is fairly mature. If Apple and Microsoft are prepping their tablets for market now, you can bet they have research cells working on the next generation after that.

The same thing is true with bio-tech. Even the most basic drugs go through years of clinical trials before being released, and there are years of development behind each trial. Imagine what’s being internally tested now that won’t be available to the public for another decade.

Of course, everyone knows it’s true with military and defense technology. For the past 60 years or so, black programs have been years or even decades ahead of the state of the civilian art in air- and space-craft, remote sensing and even mathematical proofs.

Even movies and video games released today are made with the technology that was available a year or two ago.

On one hand, a medieval peasant’s plow was probably as advanced as any plow in the world during that time. During the Industrial Revolution, advances in machinery were implemented more or less as quickly as was practical. And yet, look at how long it took (even in the US) between Edison inventing the light bulb and every home having electric lighting; compare that to how quickly iPods and iPhones became ubiquitous. This seems like a strong argument that if there is a Singularity, we are living in it right now: the gap between the available and the possible keeps growing, even as the speed in which the possible becomes available shrinks.

We’re actually living about 5 minutes in the past right now. I don’t know about you, but that makes me optimistic about the future.

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Filed under history, technology, thoughts

What does a programmer do?

What programmers looked like in 1960:

What does a programmer do?

From Are You Looking Into Your Future (1960), at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Government Comics Collection.

Also note the father and son peeking between the curtains, making a list of the neighbors and their occupations.

update: It gets even better. Check out the names on the list. Mr. Green, Mr. White, Mr. Gray… Are they picking out careers, or planning a heist?

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Filed under comics, computers, history

Fun with the Netflix algorithm

Besides helping you find movies you might enjoy, the Netflix algorithm can find connections between films you didn’t know were there. For example:

Because you enjoyed...

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Coming soon to Cartoon Network

Possibly the weirdest thing to come out of the Chinese military world since the lady soldiers in the mini-dresses and go-go boots:

Seriously, if this gets made into a TV series I may actually be motivated to watch Adult Swim.

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Filed under china, defense, television, wtf

Perspective – AP Lacks It

Mind-reading systems could change airport security

Yes, AP. Yes, they could. And I hear perpetual motion can help reduce your heating bills.

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Filed under science fiction