Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for May 20th, 2022

The Russian Military’s People Problem: It’s Hard for Moscow to Win While Mistreating Its Soldiers

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Apparently the Russian military treats its soldiers the way some American corporations treat their workers (cf., for example, the meat-packing industry, Amazon, and others). Dara Massicot writes in Foreign Affairs:

Six days before the invasion of Ukraine, a small group of Russian soldiers huddled together in their tents in Belarus. One of them had covertly acquired a smartphone—barred by the military—and together, the group logged on to Western news sites. There, they read a story that shocked them: according to Western intelligence reports, Russia was about to invade its neighbor.

One of the soldiers called his mother in shock about what he had read. She told him it was only Western propaganda, and that there would be no war. She was wrong. Five days later, on the eve of the invasion, the soldiers’ commanders revealed they would invade Ukraine. The commanders also threatened to charge their subordinates with desertion if they didn’t come along. “Mom, they put us in cars, we are leaving,” the soldier told his mother in a call before the unit moved across the border. “I love you, if there is a funeral [for me], don’t believe it right away, check for yourself.” She hasn’t heard from him since, and despite pleas for information, the military authorities have provided her with no updates. (Eventually, she went to the press.)

Despite its sophisticated military equipment and multiple advantages on paper, Russia has stumbled strategically, operationally, and tactically in Ukraine. It has been hampered by faulty planning assumptions, unrealistic timelines, and impractical objectives. It has suffered from inadequate supplies, bad logistics, and insufficient force protection. It has been impaired by poor leadership. These problems do not stop at technical equipment issues, poor training, or corruption. Rather, they are linked by a core underlying theme: the military’s lack of concern for the lives and well-being of its personnel. In Ukraine, the Russian military struggles to retrieve the bodies of its dead, obscures casualties, and is indifferent to its worried military families. It may spend billions of dollars on new equipment, but it does not properly treat soldiers’ injuries, and it generally does not appear to care tremendously whether troops are traumatized.

This culture of indifference to its personnel fundamentally compromises the Russian military’s efficacy, no matter how extensively it has been modernized. In the United States, a good soldier is a happy soldier, one that’s properly fed, paid, and treated with respect. But the Russian high command behaves as if its troops are an afterthought, making tactical decisions as if it can simply throw people at poorly designed objectives until it succeeds. This is a self-defeating attitude that both lowers troops’ morale and degrades combat effectiveness. The results are plain to see.


The Russian military has a long history of mistreating its personnel and their frightened families. During the Soviet Union’s war in Afghanistan, many conscripts were not informed ahead of time that they were being sent to into combat. When they died or disappeared, Soviet authorities were curt and dismissive to grieving parents, particularly mothers who organized to get answers. In the 1990s, the Russian military sent unprepared conscripts to Chechnya for grueling urban warfare in cities such as Grozny. Many of these troops were killed, wounded, or captured. Soldiers’ mothers looking to secure the release of their imprisoned children often pleaded with base commanders for help, only to be ignored. Many mothers traveled directly to . . .

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Written by Leisureguy

20 May 2022 at 8:32 pm

What the Vai Script Reveals About the Evolution of Writing

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Peirs Kelly in Sapiens describes an interesting example of the evolution of a set of memes. He writes:

In a small West African village, a man named Momolu Duwalu Bukele had a compelling dream. A stranger approached him with a sacred book and then taught him how to write by tracing a stick on the ground. “Look!” said the spectral visitor. “These signs stand for sounds and meanings in your language.”

Bukele, who had never learned to read or write, found that after waking he could no longer recall the precise signs the stranger revealed to him. Even so, he gathered the male members of his family together to reverse engineer the concept of writing. Working through the day and into the following night, the men devised a system of 200 symbols, each standing for a word or a syllable of their native Vai language. For millennia, varieties of the Vai language had been passed down from parents to children—but before this moment no speaker had ever recorded a single word in writing.

This took place in about 1833 in a region that would soon become the independent nation of Liberia. Vai, one of about 30 Indigenous languages of Liberia, has nearly 200,000 speakers today in the Cape Mount region that borders Sierra Leone.

Within just a few generations, Bukele’s invention was being used for penning letters, engraving jewelry, drafting carpentry plans, keeping personal diaries, and managing accounts. Vai people manufactured their own ink from crushed berries and even built schools for teaching the new system. The script was so successful that other Indigenous groups in the region were inspired to create their own; since the 1830s, at least 27 new scripts have been invented for West African languages.

Today the Vai writing system is taught at the University of Liberia and is even popular among students who are not themselves ethnically Vai. The Vai script has been included in the Unicode Standard, which means Vai speakers with smartphones can now exchange text messages in the script.


As a linguistic anthropologist, I am fascinated by the Vai discovery—and especially how the script has become critical for understanding the evolution of writing itself.

It’s not the first time in recent history that a new writing system has been invented from scratch. In the 1820s, the nonliterate polymath Sequoyah created a special script for his native Cherokee language, and similar Indigenous inventions have emerged elsewhere in the world on the margins of expanding colonies. But the evolution of Vai has been especially well-documented, making it a useful case study for researchers of writing.

In a recently published paper, my colleagues and I show that over the past two centuries the letter shapes in the Vai script have evolved via “compression”—a process by which written signs are gradually reproduced with less visual detail while conveying the same amount of linguistic information.

The theory that written signs compress over time has a long history with several versions. For instance,

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Written by Leisureguy

20 May 2022 at 8:21 pm

More great Simnett sauces

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I’ve updated the post that has a collection of easy-to-make sauces and dressings from Simnett Nutrition. The newest addition to that post is at the end: “a fresh tasty Green Goddess dressing, a creamy Citrus Mango, and also an asian inspired Ginger Apple Carrot sauce.”

Written by Leisureguy

20 May 2022 at 5:28 pm

Extremely cool tank

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I should state immediately that I somehow find rational lost causes immensely appealing. To take a few examples: Esperanto, the Dvorak keyboard, italic/chancery cursive, the Fitaly keyboard for stylus input, the HK G11, the General Dynamics/True Velocity entrant in the Army’s Next Generation Squad Weapon (NGSW) competition (it just recently lost — the Army is too conservative for a bullpup, much less plastic cartridges), and so on. I could name more, but the pattern is clear: unconventional but ration design is highly appealing to me.

And here’s another example:

Written by Leisureguy

20 May 2022 at 5:25 pm

Posted in Military, Technology

Heart rate up for no reason I can determine

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Much the same walk, but at the 1-mile point, when my Amazfit app speaks to me, I heard that my heart rate was up (at that point, 126 bpm). Since a good heart rate increases the PAI haul, I extended the walk a little bit.

I set out a bowl of frozen mixed berries before the walk, so they were ready when I got home. I added a couple of tablespoons of dried barberries, the same amount of roasted unsalted pumpkin seeds, a teaspoon of alma (powdered dried Indian gooseberries), and a little maple syrup. Very satisfying.

Written by Leisureguy

20 May 2022 at 3:58 pm

Comparison of 4 guitars priced at: $200, $2000, $20,000, and $200,000

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The video will allow you to judge only appearance and sound, but (as is pointed out) playability is also very important, and they comment on that.

Written by Leisureguy

20 May 2022 at 11:18 am

Cedar shave

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Phoenix Artisan’s Amber Aerolite made a exceptional lather from Grooming Dept’s Cedarwood, an exceptional shaving soap in his Nai formulation. This soap has a wonderful fragrance:

Scent Ingredients: Orange EO, Grapefruit EO, Ginger Lily EO, Ginger EO, Pink Pepper EO, Geranium Absolute, Rose Absolute, Howood EO, Siam Wood EO, Benzoin Resin, Carrot Seed EO, Alaska Cedarwood EO, Hiba (Japanese Cedarwood) EO, Port Orford Cedarwood EO, Styrax, Muhuhu EO, Himalayan Cedarwood EO, Virginia Cedarwood EO. Texas Hill Country Cedarwood EO, Atlas Cedarwood Absolute. Vetiver Absolute, Patchouli EO, Vanilla Co2 extract, Tonka Bean Absolute.

I increased my setting on my Rockwell T2 from “3” (shown in photo) to midway between “3” and “4” and set to work. I got a bit more blade feel, though the razor still was comfortable, and I noticed as I did the final rinse how good my skin felt — beyond being smooth. I would say that the smoothness is from the razor, the extra from the Nai soap.

A splash of Anthony Gold’s Red Cedar aftershave, augmented with a couple of squirts of Grooming Dept Hydrating Gel, and I’m ready for the day — a gloriously sunny day.

The tea this morning is Mark T. Wendell’s Organic Bold Leaf Pu-ehr: “Upon brewing, you will notice the unique damp, earthy scent characteristic of a fine black Pu-erh.”

Written by Leisureguy

20 May 2022 at 8:18 am

Posted in Caffeine, Shaving

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