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Sunday, April 28, 2013


Steve Cole muses: Just thinking to himself about life, culture, and business:
1. Recently, scientists said that they would be able to produce a cloned Neanderthal within a year or two. Obviously, we should do this if only to answer questions about them. (Can they speak? Just how intelligent are they? Do they have phenomenal memories? Can do invoke the ancient spirits of nature?) But then comes the big question. Neanderthals are not Homo Sapiens, but are they close enough to be called human and to be given human rights? (They made tools and fire, so they're clearly much smarter than chimps. They did not make clothing but did wrap themselves in skins. They buried their dead with flowers.) Would Neanderthals be a protected class under the Americans with Disabilities act? While no Neanderthal was ever in North America, would a Neanderthal clone born in this country to an American woman (you have to use a surrogate) be an American citizen? Would a Neanderthal be a "special needs child" under the laws of the state where it was born? Would we want to create a few dozen Neanderthals and create a place they could have their own community? Would doing so be segregation?
2. Recently, Jean sent me a link to an article about scantily clad women on the covers of science fiction and fantasy books. The article said that it started with Conan the Barbarian and artwork done by Frazetta and others. Well, that brings up a funny story. Back when I was a teenager, my father came home with a bundle of 20 assorted paperback books he had bought for a nickel each (i.e., a dollar for the whole bundle, no choice of what books were in it). We quickly discovered that all of the front covers had been torn off, and years later I heard why. (Bookstores take books that didn't tell, tear off the covers, and send those covers back for credit. In theory, the stores then throw away the coverless books because everybody knows not to buy them because they are effectively "stolen" books.) One of those books was the first CONAN book, and opened my eyes to a world of literature I had never known existed. It wasn't for another couple of years when I saw later CONAN paperbacks in a bookstore that I collected the entire set. The point, however, was that I was attracted to the books by their content, not their covers. (Leanna and Jean have both refused to pose for game covers, by the way.)
3. The US Army personnel replacement system in WW2 was very bad and resulted in a lot of extra casualties. Draftees were sent to a training division, and every week, that division sent a trainload of soldiers who had completed training to a seaport where they got on a boat, went to a theater of war, and (after a momentary pause in a replacement depot) were sent in batches to some division that had just taken a lot of casualties. Once there, they were parceled out between regiments, which split them up between battalions, each of which split up whatever replacements it got between companies, each company then split up the new soldiers between platoons, and finally the platoon sergeant assigned one or more to each squad. (The system was necessary because the US, with oceans to cross before reaching the war, decided to build fewer divisions and keep them in combat continually, adding replacements as needed. The system was more flexible than that used by the British and Germans, in that the US Army could send replacements to whatever unit needed them. If a British or German unit took a lot of casualties in a hurry, their replacement systems could not handle the required volume as soldiers were recruited from specific areas for specific regiments and it took months to get from the draft board to the front.) The problem with the US system was that replacements had no sense of unit identity, invariably were separated from friends they had trained with at every step in the process, and got no "at the front" training before being put into a foxhole. Replacements would report to their new unit with no idea of the unit's history, and would often be killed (because they didn't know how to avoid being killed) before their sergeant learned their name. One possible solution would have been to use a part of the German system, with each division forming a training battalion. Replacements would spend a day or two there learning "the ropes" from veterans who had come from the front-line squad or platoon they were going to. They'd have a chance to become part of a team (unit cohesion is the single most important factor in combat effectiveness) and learn how to avoid being killed.
4. An old girlfriend (Carly, 40 years ago) once told me I had "walked in here like you were walking onto a yacht." I had no idea what she meant, and asked her to explain. She did one of those "well!" numbers (something between a gasp and a shriek that means "you don't get it!") and left the party, and I haven't seen her since. (She wouldn't answer her phone, not even after I sent flowers and chocolate.) I was just wondering if anybody else knew what she meant? I mean, what is yacht-walking? I've never been on a yacht so I honestly don't know. I mean, was it because I was staggering a little (my knees were tired from a day of rock climbing) or because I was wearing the uniform of a British commodore (it was, after all, a costume party)? I really wish I knew what she meant, or whatever happened to her after that.
5. I bet you did not know that the US has been a military dictatorship. George Washington held emergency powers as dictator for two brief periods during the Revolutionary War.