Traveller on the Brain

Remembering People’s Names, The Jenkins

Just replace

“The order of a playing card deck from 2012”

with

“Some obscure role-playing game I bought in 1990”

And you have this blog,

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Chasing Waterfalls

Chasing Waterfalls I

One of the better things about role-playing games is that you can chase that waterfall… and when you go *SPLAT*, nobody got hurt, and you can walk away, perhaps a bit wiser.

Don’t go chasing waterfalls
Please stick to the rivers and the lakes that you’re used to
I know that you’re gonna have it your way or nothing at all
But I think you’re moving too fast…

Chasing Waterfalls II

Well, I’ll put it to you this way. We are the biggest selling female group ever, 10 million albums worldwide. We have worked very hard, We have been this business for five years and we are broke as broke can be. And we’re not like trying to be a sad story, [if] that was the case it would have been on everybody’s talk show, talking about how broke we are. We haven’t done that. I know it’s hard to believe because we saw so many albums, but it is possible. That’s the deal here so, and we’re not happy at all, but for real. Tonight this is all we wanted, we wanted to win a Grammy, at least one and we won two, and that proves that we are the jam.

It ain’t easy to make it, even if you are skilled and talented.

Opal Holly (edited)
“The record company’s the pimp, the artist is the ho, the stage is the corner, and the audience is the trick.” – Ice Cube

The PCs might want to take another look at the contract they signed with their generous employers and patrons.

Maybe compare notes with others in their line of work, even their enemies and competitors.

The key is getting talent who can

  • read and understand the legalese
  • knows your business
  • is working for you, not the big wheels.

That way, at least you can see what’s really going on. That’s valuable in itself.

But what you are going to do about it is up to you.

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A New COVID Wave

In my opinion, there will be a major second wave of COVID cases coming down the pike over the next six weeks. Unlike the earlier sensational media claims that “beds are full” when they simply were not, beds are actually full in Ireland….

…which means that they will soon be full here as well.

The basis for my claim is on the other blog. But I can give you my sources here:

The social distancing mandates, the masks, the lockdowns will be as ineffective as ever: there is no difference between the regions where they are put in place, and where they aren’t. That’s just power-pushing security theatre.

The vaccines will be widely distributed after the wave is over.

What is needed is to isolate the elderly and vulnerable people in your family, today.

Source: The Covid Tracking Project

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The Managed Opposition

Signal — the privacy chat app favored by the world’s leading crypto experts — is trending again. In the wake of Twitter and Facebook’s MAGA Maidan Internet purge (which was followed by Facebook’s announcement that it was gonna start siphoning data off its WhatsApp property), Signal shot up to being the top downloaded messenger app on the planet.

[…]

Signal was developed by Open Whisper Systems, a for-profit corporation run by “Moxie Marlinspike,” a tall, lanky cryptographer who has a head full of dreadlocks and likes to surf and sail his boat.

[…]

This big: After selling his encryption start-up to Twitter in 2011, Moxie began partnering with America’s soft-power regime change apparatus — including the State Department and the Broadcasting Board of Governors (now called the U.S. Agency for Global Media) — on developing tech to fight Internet censorship abroad. That relationship led to his next venture: a suite of government-funded encrypted chat and voice mobile apps. Say hello to Signal.

Signal is a government op, by Yasha Levine

Serious Nobles maintain a family office, whose sole purpose is to manage their enemies.

Unlike the monocultural Ziru Sirka, our interstellar government cannot cost-effectively stomp out all opposition, everywhere. We simply are not at that stage of unity and harmony, and it would be a lie – an expensive lie – to assume that we are.

So, instead of breaking the budget and making a public mockery of ourselves trying to achieve the result of 100% compliance 100% of the time, we will settle with managing the level of dissent and noncompliance within our realm.

True, comprehensive Imperial Unity and Harmony will not be achieved within the typical lifespan of any human within this room: not even our Pure Vilani members. But Imperial Rome was not built in a day, and neither will Imperial Space.

It takes time, to build the Deep Consensus. To finally end the pain of change and uncertainty and unpredictability.

But if we commit ourselves and our children, our houses and our wealth… if we refuse to be distracted by the noise or dissuaded by the obstacles before us… then we can, indeed, create the Eternal Imperial Order.

The future that was promised.

The dreams of the Vilani are different than the dreams of the Solomani.

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1) Disappearing Without Transporters 2) Commodore Perry and Self-Imposed Isolation

Quora: Combat veterans, what was the most devious and sneaky enemy deception you have personally seen?

Josh Beam, US Army from 2011 – 2014 (deployed to Afghanistan in 2012)

When we got into firefights in Afghanistan, the Taliban would just seem to disappear into thin air after an engagement.

It’s said that they would sometimes set up their positions near giant holes in the desert ground, leap down into them, and follow underground tunnels as their getaway route.

Afghanistan is full of underground tunnels that are supposed to direct mountain water to dirt farms for irrigation. I knew these systems as being called “Karez”, but they’re also referred to as “Kariz” and “Qanat”. One of the soldiers in my unit actually fell down one of these holes at night and broke his back[1].

Footnotes
[1] Josh Beam’s answer to During your time in the military, did you ever see something that made you say, “you can’t be serious…”?

Every war has it’s own particular flavour, as the land, the people, and the tools shapes the battles and how the soldiers and generals think and move.

A network of underground tunnels, well, shafts, and channels are not at all the same thing as a deep, impenetrable jungle… but they can serve the same purpose.

Especially if your goal is not to win the battle, but to outlast the enemy, and so win the war

“Know the terrain to know the enemy.”

Interestingly, one of the main mid- to high-level goals is to force the weaker enemy to stand up and fight, so you can defeat him in his own mind.


Sidestepping the Problem

The Imperium structured her military commitments so that the battles she needs to worry about are the ones that are fought on her turf: interstellar space, interplanetary space, interstellar relations, etc.

What happens dirtside just isn’t her problem, unless there is a base or installation that can’t simply be nuked (see: Imperial Marines), or a large population that has to be pacified the Solomani Way: with a huge military outlay and the shipment of millions and millions of armed men, their support crews, and the required material & equipment and support infrastructure.

The Imperium is expected to be… if not a true a wealth-generator, at least a wealth catalyst, and not a wealth-consumer.

There has better be a very good reason why the Duke needs to pull the trigger in the name of the Emperor, instead of manipulating the situation so the Imperium

  • has no skin in the game,
  • profits regardless of who wins,
  • persuades some local heavyweight – planetary, noble, or corporate – to pay the dirtside price for the Emperor’s victory.
  • spots how to shift the entire battlespace by using just the right force at just the right place and time. Wars are both cheaper and less destructive when small but potent units are used. Mass ground armies are expensive to raise or hire, and remain expensive for as long as you use them.

Of course, you can always pacify a rebellious world the Vilani Way — “global extermination from orbit, followed by hunter-killer teams to deal with the survivors” — but destroying your market, your population, and your revenue-generators is not the way to Imperial Success.

“There’s more than one reason why the Imperial aristocracy dislikes the Collective mindset.”

Moreover, Imperial society is no longer just a Vilani society, but a Mixed Vilani society. Imperial-sponsored genocide causes a whole host of difficult-to-govern political and social issues. And for obvious reasons, it drives serious opposition to the Imperium underground, where it gets much more expensive to track down and defang before it can cause severe damage.

Far better to have the internal enemies of the Imperium be openly hostile, leading for their worlds to be publicly Red Zoned and economically/technologically isolated, cut off from interstellar society.

Isolating the Enemy… and Commodore Perry

Isolation leads to increasing backwardness and ignorance, which leads to weakness and poverty. In a few decades, after the local rebels see just how far back they have fallen, and how vulnerable they are to non-Imperial invasion by ambitious, up-to-date, well financed forces seeking easy prey, there is a very quiet, low-key re-opening of their economy and a lifting of the Red Zone, in return for bending the knee to the Iridium Throne.

The Imperial mind tends to misunderstand Commodore Perry’s opening of Japan:

“Why on earth would you want to force your enemy to lift his own self-imposed isolation? If the enemy is Red Zoning himself, that’s a gift that cries out for maximum exploitation! Never interrupt the enemy when he is making a mistake!”

The Imperial needs to understand the difference in scale between:

1850s Japan vs 1850s United States of America,

…and

…The Third Imperium of 11,000 systems vs. any single given system.

The Japanese population of 1846 was ~27 million, compared with

  • an American population of 23 million,
  • a UK population of 27 million,
  • a Chinese Empire population of 430 million,
  • and a world population of 1,200 million (1.2 billion).

So the US getting access to a market the same size as its own home market is a Big Thing.

But no single Imperial planetary market can be as significant to the Imperium, as Japans market was (and is!) to the US.

A better analogy is a rebellious town of ~200,000 or so that votes to secede from the United States. It is a very minor affair for the President just make a phone call, and just have the tanks armoured vehicles roll.

“An air strike is just ridiculous overkill. Two helicopter gunships are more than sufficient.”

But the less destructive, more elegant way to simply take the town at it’s word, and cut off all the roads and phone lines and banking services and electrical hook-ups and internet connections and…

You get the picture.

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“Why I quote people you don’t like.”

Yes, this actually has to be explicitly spelled out, in this day and age.

*sigh*

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The Post-Discontent Society

The Zhodani can think of another way to secure the post-discontent society….

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Cryonics: Frozen Civilizations

Or,

“Low berths get the Issac Arthur Treatment!”

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Tibet, Tourist Traps, and Yelling For War

Quora: Why did China fail to annex Vietnam in the war of 1979, like they did with Tibet in 1959?

Chris Nortje · BA (Hons) Counselling Psychology and Writer

The answer is really simple actually. Tibet didn’t put up much of a resistance since the majority of the population were basically slaves (serfs).

As with slaves, serfs could be bought, sold, or traded, with some limitations: they generally could be sold only together with land, could be abused with no rights over their own bodies, could not leave the land they were bound to, and could marry only with their lord’s permission. Serfs who occupied a plot of land were required to work for the lord of the manor who owned that land.[1]

Here you’ll see what serfs in Tibet had to endure before Tibet was invaded.

So I don’t think they really cared about being invaded at the time. I might be wrong. Maybe they prefered to be abused and tortured before Mao Zedong rode into their capital and drove away their landlords/owners.

There’s a lot of controversy in the west about Serfs Emancipation Day

in Tibet, especially since they were freed by a bunch of communists, but I think the pictures tell a different story than the ones we were told. These guys went through hell every single day before the invasion. I don’t think they minded much at the time.

Sorrel Neuss is a freelance British journalist who trained at City University. She wrote this in a piece for the Guardian:

What we don’t hear about Tibet

High-ranking lamas and secular landowners imposed crippling taxes, forced boys into monastic slavery and pilfered most of the country’s wealth – torturing disobedient serfs by gouging out their eyes or severing their hamstrings…

The Dalai Lama now promotes democracy, but Tibet may well have looked worse than it does today if the old order had been left to its own devices.

The article is worth reading.

Vietnam, on the other hand, didn’t ask to be freed from slavery as far as I know. Therefore they obviously put up more of a fight.

Footnotes
[1] Serfdom – Wikipedia

Some truths are more widely known than others.

There are times when the invader really does comes only to rape, to kill, and to enslave: see “Germany and Eastern Europe, 1939-1945”.

But most times, it isn’t only like that.

And, praise God, the rape/kill/enslave people have been losing influence over the decades. They’re still out there, but they have to slink about in the shadows now.

The nationalistic Tibetans of 2021 are not the enslaved Tibetans of 1959. But there are good reasons why the Tibetans of 1959 were uninterested in resisting the rise of a materially better foreign master, over the abusive local one.

The Vietnamese were under a Communist government in 1979, and therefore not a free people. But, there are degrees of oppression: The Russians decided “Better Stalin than Hitler” for obvious reasons.

And the Vietnamese have a strong dislike of foreign masters, preferring their local ones.

Traveller: The Imperium strong dislikes invading member worlds: the cost is always greater than you think, and it’s easier to get into things than out of them.

Democracies and Republics are perfectly comfortable with their endless wars, since “The People will pay for it”. But when it is some vague abstraction, but a particular family or corporation that will foot the bill with their own money and the destruction of their own capital (human, land, machine), things get a lot more slow and cautious.

True. But on the other hand, more than one dynasty destroyed themselves in wars they could not afford, including the Bourbons and the Romanovs.

Note that the Imperium is careful to avoid getting swamped in a thousand nagging, intermittent, inconclusive wars, it is certainly possible for a member world to invade a single, targeted neighbour for her own reasons

It’s quite possible for a political movement on a populous rich world to buy enough mercenaries and recruit enough ideological shock troops to do their own invasion.

“The Imperium is famous for telling ideologues and tycoons alike “Do you own killing”, as His Imperial Majesty’s Forces are not to be used as a cat’s paw to prop up someone else’s political dreams or financial schemes.

So that’s exactly what they are going to do.”

Welcome to Traveller.


Quora: Was Roman-Era Sparta really a tourist trap?

Spencer Alexander McDaniel, B.A. Classical Studies & History, Indiana University Bloomington (2022)

That’s certainly the impression we get from the ancient sources.

By the first century BCE, Sparta was no longer the powerful independent city-state it had once been. Instead, it was merely a village. The Spartan locals seem to have attracted tourists by holding a yearly festival where they would whip teenaged boys on the altars of Artemis Orthia and the boys would try to show no pain.

The Roman orator Marcus Tullius Cicero (lived 106 – 43 BCE) describes how he himself visited Sparta and saw this macabre spectacle for himself. He writes in his Tusculan Disputations 5.14, as translated by C. D. Yonge:

“The boys at Sparta are scourged so at the altars that blood follows the lash in abundance; nay, sometimes, as I used to hear when I was there, they are whipped even to death; and yet not one of them was ever heard to cry out, or so much as groan.”

Later, Cicero notes in his Tusculan Disputations 5.27, in Yonge’s translation:

“Spartan boys will bear to have their bodies torn by rods without uttering a groan. I myself have seen at Lacedaemon troops of young men, with incredible earnestness contending together with their hands and feet, with their teeth and nails, nay, even ready to expire, rather than own themselves conquered.”

The Greek writer Ploutarchos of Chaironeia (lived c. 46 – after c. 119 CE) evidently visited the Spartan village and saw this bloody ritual as well. He writes in his Life of Lykourgos 18, as translated by Richard J. A. Talbert:

“This tale is certainly not incredible, judging from Spartan ephebes today. I have witnessed many of them dying under the lashes they received at the altar of Artemis Orthia.”

Considering that our accounts of the Spartan whipping ritual come exclusively from non-Spartans who visited the town as tourists, it is quite possible that the locals staged this ritual in order to cash in on their town’s ancient reputation.

ABOVE: Illustration of the infamous Spartan whipping ritual from the 1911 novel
The Coward of Thermopylae by Caroline Dale Snedeker

I prefer Christianized tourist traps to Pagan ones.

Others disagree.

Including more than a few Imperials…. Nobles and Citizens alike.


Quora: What’s your most controversial opinion and why do you hold it?

Jean-Marie Valheur · political aficionado & former journalist

Humanity said “Never Again!” in 1945. No genocides. No concentration camps. Not organised mass murder. But it was an empty phrase… because when Winston Churchill suggested to attack Stalin and get rid of totalitarianism once and for all, he was rebuked. So Eastern-Europe and half of Germany was sold to the beast, betrayed… and lived under totalitarianism for decades more.

My own great-grandfather and his brother were in Stalin’s gulags. My great-grandfather survived the ordeal, his brother did not… he died there. Torn apart by dogs in the snow as he tried to escape his tormentors. No help came.

Hitler was defeated. Stalin and Mao, Pol Pot, all the other animals murdering millions, were allowed to roam freely, murder as they pleased… there were concentration camps. There were mass murders. Starvation. And still I watch these Holocaust movies from Hollywood. I see them zooming in on monuments… “Never again”. This movie is dedicated to the memory of the fallen, the murdererd, the victims…

And it’s all too easy to think that evil is defeated. That the beast has been killed. But this is a lie… the beast of totalitarianism is not defeated. It’s alive and well. In North-Korea. In China. They call it communism, before they called it national-socialism. But whatever you call it, it’s Orwellian. It’s a Black Mirror episode come to life. And we’re all just… letting it happen.

Nothing changes. Nothing is done. Humanity is tired of large scale war. At the very least, humanity is tired of world wars… we like to imagine we’ve “done our part”. We killed Nazism. We defeated Hitler’s Germany in 1945. So what, we’re done now? Evil isn’t done. Evil doesn’t sleep. It doesn’t stand still.

Evil still sterilizes ‘troublesome’ ethnic minorities. Evil still puts dissidents in jail, kills them, steals their organs. Evil still trades with us. Sells us decent products at a reasonable price. Steals our technology. Bullies weaker nations, suppresses freedom of speech and fights a neverending war on the truth…

Evil lives. It wasn’t killed in 1945, and whenever we say “Never Again”, it’s just cycnical. Enormously, treacherously cynical. Because the world failed to save Eastern Europe from the clutches of Stalin. And the world doesn’t mind the continued existence of brutal totalitarianism in China and North-Korea.

My most controversial opinion is that one day, somehow, we have to finish what we started in the 1940s. We need an “Operational Unthinkable”, perhaps even another world war. Because the alternative is a new world order in which, one day, we will wake up to find all our rights, our human dignity and our freedom have been erased.

Of course, evil exists.

But, while it is good and just to suppress it domestically — to punish thieves and murderers and lying in the courts — the problem it presents cannot be truly, deeply, conclusively solved via politically, with rules and guns, bureaucrats and prisons.

Indeed: to attempt to eliminate evil via political/military tools generally means that A LOT more evil is going to to get done.

“For the very best of reasons.”

Another murderous world war is not going to solve the problem.

And, while it’s easy to start a major war — especially if someone else is paying for it (waves to the Americans) — ending a war is a different matter.

What You Fear is What You Worship

In the end, I just am not as fearful of tyrants as Valheur is. I am unawed by their State Security forces and their Ministries of Truth… state-funded or otherwise.

I know that they are on the losing side of history. And of eternity, too.

They rely on muscle, guns, money, violence, and a sea of manufactured lies to prod the inflamed mob: a bunch of thin reeds, that start strong but rots in their hands.

Political power grows from the barrel of a gun, but politics just isn’t all that important in the lives of most people. And the ability to kill — while certainly a real threat — doesn’t bring food on the table (the starving socialist is more than a trope!), and doesn’t heal or save a nation. (Healing => using salves and other medicines => salvation.)

There is a place for political power: robbers and murderers do exist, and need to be publicly punished by the magistrate after a lawful and fair trial.

But a bowel-emptying fear of political oppressors, or some desperate, frantic cry for Strong Men with Uniforms to Save Us with a Big War Against Evil, is just plain infantile.

(Points to the Left, Points to the Right.)

The evil that must be urgently suppressed isn’t the Wicked People Over There.

It’s the Wicked People Over Here.

Or – to get at the root of the problem – those who, by their inaction far more than their action, allow evil to triumph here.

<points to my heart>

<points to your heart>

But dealing with our own evil, and the evil of our neighbours and our businesses and our politicians and our military men and our churches and our community organizers and our legal and medical experts, comes at a personal cost.

Much easier to cry out for a war that someone else — i.e. Americans — will pay for.

“The Imperium is famous for telling ideologues and tycoons alike “Do you own killing”, as His Imperial Majesty’s Forces are not to be used as a cat’s paw to prop up someone else’s political dreams or financial schemes.

The Americans have more than enough on their plate at home.

And more than enough major evils to dethrone and defund at home, to waste time and energy going abroad, seeking monsters to destroy.

(And the price of fighting those monsters can be far steeper than just “time and energy”. As the Man Himself said, count the cost.)

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A Robot With Spirit

No, I don’t think digital programs are ever going to have a spirit.

You can’t program what you can’t express algebraically.

But… if you disagree with me… this video demonstrates what you should be aiming for.

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