Friday, March 25, 2022

Links 25 March 2022

Canova, Recumbent Magdelen, 1822. This once famous sculpture was somehow lost and ended up serving as a garden ornament in England. Now that its identity has been recognized it is likely to sell for at least $6.5 million.

Andy Warhol was right: Trent Trelenko, the guy who wrote that post about Russian military tires, is now a talking head on the television news. 

And Trelenko is back on Twitter with another thread, this one about the attrition of Russian trucks; his conclusion is that by the end of April Russia will not have enough trucks to even minimally supply its forces, dooming them to inactivity. Amusing that army mechanics see a lot of damage done to vehicles when the drivers come under fire and try to cross ditches etc. to escape; they call this response "Punch it Chewy." As in, "Yeah, they did a real Punch it Chewy on this truck."

The sad story of Afghanistan's last finance minister, now an Uber driver in Washington, DC. (Washington Post)

Chinese archaeologists claim to have found the Jinxia Academy, a sort of think tank of the Warring States period where noted Confucian philosopher Mencius worked.

Archaeologists announce that a feature at a Carthaginian site on the island of Motya off Sicily was not a harbor but a sacred freshwater pool surrounded by temples, something well known in the Phoenician homeland. The mistake happened because the area had sunk several feet and filled with salt water; the whole western coast of Italy and Sicily is prone to rising and falling in this way as the African and European plates grind together far below the surface.

Unusual offerings found at Aztec temple: starfish from the Pacific coast.

Amazing 30-second time-lapse video of the port of Amsterdam.

In some parts of Ukraine, Ukrainian soldiers have dug up Russian corpses to trade for living Ukrainian prisoners. Westerners have been baffled that Russian commanders have made so little effort to recover their dead, but some Russian officers care a lot, hence these clandestine deals.

One major strand of thought among Russia's leaders is "Eurasianism," an old idea that Russia's destiny is to lead a Eurasian empire uniting Slavs, Mongols, Turks, and others against the Atlantic world. (NY Times, wikipedia)

Behind the shocking story of a homeless man attacking and killing other homeless men, the NY Times finds a sad tale of mental illness. Once again we encounter this line: "he went on and off his medications." And "He didn't want to be committed but he wasn't in his right mind."

The "ozone hole" seems to be gradually closing, in line with the decline in CFC emissions, which is why you never hear about it anymore. Of course it was never certain that the ozone hole was caused by CFCs, but since CFCs are also powerful greenhouse gases it's a good thing we got rid of them regardless.

An American "New Right" forms under the banner of Tucker Carlson. (Washington Post)

The BBC has a "Reading Russia" twitter feed about what the Russian newspapers say, and they note that while the press won't use the words "war" or "invasion" their stories look like war stories, and they constantly compare this fighting to World War II, the last time Russians fought around Kyiv. The Russian public may be misled about the causes of the war but they are getting the message that it is a serious fight.

The Institute for the Study of War explains what they mean when they predict "stalemate" in Ukraine, and what may happen in the war moving forward.

If the US government really wants to hurt Russia economically, what they should do is roll out a big welcome mat for the 100,000 Russian tech workers who want to leave.

Short video of the night sky on Mars.

Excavating a late Roman burial ground in the South of France.

Extraordinarily detailed scan of Fra Mauro's world map, c. 1450.

Genetic study connects contemporary members of the Muwekma Ohlone tribe in the San Francisco Bay area to Californians who lived 1500 years ago. But weird wording in the article suggests they are mostly a mix of European and Mexican. (Article, popular summary)

Consider how much effort people put into applications for grants, prestigious scholarships like the Rhodes, and so on, most of which are unsuccessful (Rhodes, 99.3% rejected; NIH research grants, 79% rejected). Is there any way to limit this gigantic waste of human resources?


David said...

Interesting that the ISW assessment of Ukraine doesn't mention the possibility of Russia using WMD. That would change the international politics of the war dramatically. And while the ISW is lauding the idea of a even more arming of the Ukrainians, I'm concerned this may push Putin too much to the wall in a world where nuclear Armageddon is real possibility. The existence of nuclear weapons means there are limits to the usefulness of analogies from, say, 1916. It also means that looking to defeat Russia outright may be a very bad idea indeed.

David said...

In the vein that I mentioned above, the Russian signal this morning that they MAY be "satisfied" with their takings in the east of Ukraine is something it might be wise to respond to. Such a negotiation would be in no way satisfying for Ukraine, the West, or a moral conscience. It would not ensure that Putin has "learned his lesson," nor would it properly honor the bravery of the Ukrainian people. Welcome to international politics in the nuclear age. Perhaps ISW should stop looking to WWI and WWII and consider instead Korea in 1954 or perhaps Hungary in 1956 as the relevant examples.

I suppose, as a counter-example, one might cite the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. There the US armed the resistance and kept arming it until the Soviets were, in fact, completely defeated. Vietnam the same, with the US defeated in this case. But I'm not sure we can rely on Putin to play the role of Gorbachev or Nixon. Several observers have already commented that Putin is much more reckless about talking about WMD than the Soviets ever were. In this sense he and Trump really are soulmates.

Long term, I think the best strategy may be to keep Putin as bottled up but unoffended as possible, and wait for his life to run out.

G. Verloren said...

Amazing 30-second time-lapse video of the port of Amsterdam.

To clarify something that isn't clearly stated - this doesn't depict normal harbor traffic, but rather is footage from the "SAIL Amsterdam" event which is held every five years, in which sailing ships from all around the world converge on the city's east harbor.

Anonymous said...

It also means that looking to defeat Russia outright may be a very bad idea indeed.

Eh..again? Thanks, comrade, we'll go with defeating them.

David said...


Good luck with that, tough guy. Leave me and mine out of it.