asrabkin: (Default)
2017-08-21 11:38 am
Entry tags:

Nebraska and the eclipse

Sophie and I are in Lincoln, Nebraska. We got here this past Friday and have been visiting with Kate-my-ex and her partner Brett -- they are both faculty at Doane university, a small liberal arts college.

This weekend, we went to the Strategic Air Power museum (formerly the SAC museum). It was an interesting collection. They have a lot of airplanes -- including a B52 and a B-36, which normally don't fit in museums. They have a few interesting artifacts -- the original Red Phone, Curtis LeMay's desk, etc. What they don't have is a coherent story or much in the way of description of the life and work of SAC -- nothing about how things worked or what people did all day, or much about the doctrine and technology underpinning the aircraft. I thought it was worth visiting but if you don't know a fair bit about what you're seeing it might be disappointing.

In astronomical news, the moon is about to occult the sun. (AKA, the Great American solar eclipse is about to start!) Weather conditions are moderate -- some light clouds but the sun is shining through them okay. So we should see quite a bit if things get no worse in the next 90 minutes.
asrabkin: (Default)
2017-05-18 11:42 am

games and history

Ever since I was about 10, I've had a fondness for history-themed computer games. Somehow I still find time for it in my life, but I enjoy them in slightly different ways at this point.

I find that I often understand history much better as a result of gaming. Partly looking at the game leaves me curious about the situation being depicted so I do my reading. But also, a game forces you to think in detail and think from the perspective of a particular actor. And that often draws your attention to constraints that you would otherwise not have seen.

I just started playing Matrix Games' enormous and complex "War in the Pacific" game. This is a simulation of WW2 in the pacific, at the detail of individual ships and battalions. It does reasonably well at managing the pieces -- your battalions group into regiments and divisions, your ships form task forces -- but the complexity is staggering. And my sense is that the creators have done a great deal of archival work to get details of ship and unit locations, strengths, armaments, etc.

And the game has drawn my attention to several things I didn't notice.

First, it left me with a new-found appreciation of land-based airpower. I saw a nice summary of this in one of the books I got inspired to read. The pacific war was first an air war, then a naval war, and only last a land war. Since mostly the war was fought on small islands far from major industrial regions, ground forces without naval supply would quickly lose all combat effectiveness. But running convoys through areas with hostile air power was suicide. Therefore, the war was basically fought over control of key air base locations from which sea control could be exerted.

Popular histories often emphasize the sea battles and heroism on the ground without forcing the reader's attention to this dynamic. But when you play a reasonably accurate game, this becomes obvious. After having a few of your convoys savaged by Bettys early in the war, you learn that you *must* have air control to move your cargoes.

Second, I understand much better what the war was fought over. Looking at the map, you notice that basically the thing Japan was trying to do was conquer the Dutch East Indies and Burma, with the Philippines thrown in as appetizer. And they basically achieved that within the first six months, and kept most of it for the whole war. Their challenge after the first six months was just to hang on.
asrabkin: (Default)
2017-05-01 01:50 pm
Entry tags:

financial advice

The other day I met up with an acquaintance to talk about financial advisors. She used to be one and was nominally just explaining what they do, but was one step short of blinking out “don’t do it” in morse code. The impression I got was that given my financial goals, I don't need any advice picking investments, and they would not get a sufficiently bigger return to justify the cost of hiring them and the overhead of picking / monitoring them.

The thing I really want advice on is what to do with my company stock, and for that I think I want a tax accountant, not a planner. Any suggestions?
asrabkin: (Default)
2017-04-27 05:13 pm

finding friends?

How do I find friends here? I am skittish splashing a dreamwidth link around on FB/Twitter.
asrabkin: (Default)
2017-04-27 12:09 am

hello, world!

I think it's time to move here. I expect most entries to be friend-locked, but if I know you in person, please do feel free to ask. It's mostly going to be stuff that I wouldn't show to employers or strangers, but not going to involve confessions of felony or anything very sordid.
asrabkin: (Default)
2009-05-25 10:33 am

campin' out

Hi all.

Due to the potential sudden death of livejournal, I'm establishing a presence here. Feel free to friend me.