Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Team of Teams

Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for an Empowered World by Gen. Stanley McChrystal (US Army, Ret). With Tatum Collins, David Silverman, and Chris Fussell.  
Portfolio/Penguin, 2015.

An enjoyable, erudite read, Team of Teams by Stanley McChrystal was written by a general for generals. McChrystal takes his time to make his points. He presents cogent evidence to support his assertions, but those would be easy enough to accept on the basis of his authority. His education and experience made him an expert.  From 2003-2008 he was in charge of the Joint Special Operations Command that was responsible for defeating the insurgency of Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), and neutralizing its leadership, including the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. In order to achieve that, McChrystal had to reconfigure the way the Army usually operated.

The transformation was radical for the military, but familiar to the private sector. Information could not be held in organizational “silos” on a need-to-know basis. The office layout, while allowing adequate personal space, had to be open so that people could talk across desks, across islands of information and authority. This was only way that the allied joint forces could defeat AQI, which was decentralized, resilient, adaptable, flexible, and driven by the media of information exchange from the cellphone to the international news website.

The coordinating theme is the balance and integration of shared consciousness and empowered execution. Shared consciousness includes the physical perceptions brought in from information assets, either directly from soldiers in the field or indirectly from informants or remote sensors. It also includes the philosophy of the mission, an agreement on doctrine and rules of engagement. Given that, empowered execution allows those closest to a problem – taking a house or killing an enemy leader—to solve it in real time.

Early on, McChrystal establishes a baseline that he returns to repeatedly throughout the book. Frederick Winslow Taylor’s efficient organization defined not just the methods of production or the layout of the office, but the fundamental doctrinal premise of a civilization for 100 years.  Taylorist thinking led to the impenetrable (but immovable) Maginot Line that aircraft flew over. The coalition forces defeated Saddam Hussein because both sides were fighting the previous war. The Iraqi insurgency demanded new habits from new learning. It was time to take everyone’s brains out of their footlockers and put them all to work thinking, discussing, planning, and criticizing.

Chapter 10 “Hands off” contrasts the experiences of Commodore Matthew Perry and Gen. Ulysses Grant. Perry was on his own, over 6,000 miles from home. He had total control and no oversight. On the other hand, Grant issued meticulously detailed orders to his generals. McChrystal’s world was a strange mix of the two. While he enjoyed complete information input from assets in the field, soldiers, helicopters, and drones, he also insisted on letting the leaders on the ground make their own decisions, knowing, of course, that they were not alone at all. 
MECE: Mutually Exclusive and Collectively Exhaustive

McChrystal completed a master of science in International Relations from Salve Regina University. He has company. Maj. Gen. James W. Nuttall deputy director of the Army National Guard earned an MA at SRU. Gen. Peter Chiarelli completed an MA in national security strategy at SRU after earning an MPA from the University of Washington. After finishing a master's at Salve Regina, Gen. Anthony Zinni (USMC) earned another master's from Central Michigan University.

Perhaps making too much of his outside-the-box thinking, it is interesting to note that Gen. McChrystal recommended A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court for Admiral Stavridis’s anthology, The Leader’s Bookshelf. Also, whether and to what extent such new age intuitions actually instantiated the doctrine of counter-insurgency outlined by David Galula may be putative. It may be that victory in Iraq such as it was came from doing what soldiers always do and that so-called “counter-insurgency” ultimately proved to be a failure because it could never have been a success. 


Saturday, January 27, 2018

The Next Hurricane Harvey ...

... will not be a hurricane.

"Some years ago, there was a group in the staff college of which some of you may have heard, Leavenworth Staff College. This was before our entry into World War One, and in that course it was necessary to use a number of maps and the maps available to the course were of the Alsace-Lorraine area and the Champagne in France. But a group of "young Turks" came along who wanted to reform Leavenworth. They pointed out it was perfectly silly for the American Army to be using such maps which could after all be duplicated in other areas without too much cost--they would get some area maps where the American Army just might fight a battle. So, they got, among other things, maps of the area of Leavenworth and of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and in succeeding years all the problems have been worked out on those maps. The point is, only about two years after that happened, we were fighting in Alsace-Lorraine and in the Champagne. 

"I tell this story to illustrate the truth of the statement I heard long ago in the Army: Plans are worthless, but planning is everything. There is a very great distinction because when you are planning for an emergency you must start with this one thing: the very definition of "emergency" is that it is unexpected, therefore it is not going to happen the way you are planning." 
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Remarks at the National Defense Executive Reserve Conference
November 14, 1957

Previously on Necessary Facts
AFK: Hurricane Harvey
CERT: Community Emergency Response Team
2017 Texas Emergency Management Conference
Hurricane Tejas 2016 Exercise

Sunday, January 21, 2018

A Small Ancient Coin of Teos

Although I publish some research and many book reviews on numismatics, I do not buy much material. While working as the international editor for Coin World (1999-2000), I learned that I lack the collector’s passions for rarity, perfection, and completeness. But I do participate in the hobby and attend shows and conventions. So, sometimes things come home with me, as did this diobol from Teos.

diobol 9x11 mm 0.9 grams
Similar to Kinns 95 (different magistrate)
not in SNG, BMC, etc.
The obverse shows a griffin (gryphon) and the letters THI for “of Teos” (genitive case) and A/\Y the beginning of the magistrate’s name ALYMPIOS. That name appears in the reverse along with THI and a lyre or chelys. The stringed instrument typically had a tortoise shell for the sounding board but this coin was struck weakly at the bottom. That is also why the Sigma is missing from Alympios’s name. 

The town had a good harbor, but fell into hard times after the collapse of the Ionian Revolt. Many of its natives fled to Abdera in Thrace, which is why that town also took the gryphon for its ethnic.Teos recovered somewhat during the Hellenistic era, which is when this series was issued. (Drachma and staters from archaic Teos are better known.) The coin is small, especially considering that at this time (320-294), a day’s wages for a rower on a galley or a citizen at assembly was at least a drachmon, three times as much as a diobol.

Teos happened to have been the home town of Protagoras, who lived about 150 years earlier. (Protagoras was also said to have come from Abdera, which was the home of Democritus, who was his teacher.) The poet Anacreon (582-485 BCE, according to the Encyclopedia Britannica) was a Tean. Knowing their classics well, 18th century English revelers wrote a song “To Anacreon in Heaven” the melody of which became our national anthem, “The Star Spangled Banner.”

The best history I found is at New Advent, the Catholic Encyclopedia Online:
Here too was the home of a body of bacchanalian artists who furnished actors for the theatres of Asia and the Archipelago. It was the beginning of the ancient theatre. In order to further commerce and the pursuit of the fine arts, Teos, after having saved the fleet of the Roman prætor Regulus from Antiochus, King of Syria, secured for its territory in 193 B.C. from Rome and a great number of Grecian cities the right of perpetual asylum, this privilege being largely due to the temple of Bacchus. During the Christian era almost nothing is known of this city. -- http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14513a.htm
Searching VCoins and other sites, I compiled a file of images and citations. Mine is the only one with the ethnic and magistrate on the obverse. That worries me, so I am sending off to David Sear for attribution.


Saturday, January 13, 2018

Advertising: Subliminal or Stupid?

Symbols carry meanings and we read words and images as much with the back of the mind as the front. Often, I think well of the hard thinking adverstising creatives who apparently perceive so easily  at several levels. Sometimes, though, I gotta wonder...
Famous red-haired girl. Her necklace can be read as MOM.

The corporate logo for Wendy's has the iconic red-haired girl. Originally, she was dressed like a girl from the 1890s to 1920s with a high-collared blue and white striped blouse. In some recent decade, that was reduced to a head and her collar only. The collar seems to read MOM. I believe that this was a purposeful, planfully competent intent. The word might not carry completely in all languages, but it works well in American English.

On the other hand, I saw this from STYLEWE as a pop-up ad on a website last night and the word that jumped out at me was EWE, a female sheep.
Models in fashionable dresses and combinations. Logo has the word EWE in it.
I believe that the designers intended STYLE - WE as in "We like your style" or "We are in style." To me, she is "still a ewe" and the fact that these dollies have no heads, therefore no faces or personalities, only reinforces that. Maybe it's just me...

Art & Copy 
Industrial Medals: A Currency of Fame
The Art of Finance
Raymond Loewy

Saturday, January 6, 2018

The Philosophical Breakfast Club

If one person can change the world, four might do 16 times as much. The Philosophical Breakfast Club: Four Remarkable Friends Who Transformed Science and Changed the World by Laura J. Snyder (Broadway, 2011) is the story of Charles Babbage, William Herschel, William Whewell, and Richard Jones. They met at Cambridge about 1810. By 1860, through their hard work and consistent focus, modern science acquired the inductive method and public involvement (and government funding), that resulted in science evolving from a hobby to a profession.
picture shows bookshelf and open curtains with photographs of four yound men in 19th century dress

Snyder writes well. The book is engaging, compelling, sometimes challenging. We accept that science proceeds by paradigm shifts, but the advent of modern science was itself a radical redefinition. At the start of the 19th century, what we call “science” was “natural philosophy” and its practitioners were philosophers. It was at the first meeting of the British Association of the Advancement of Science on June 24, 1833, that William Whewell answered a challenge from Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and spontaneously offered the word “scientist.”

More to the point, natural philosophy was pursued by people of leisure, most often men, of course, but also the exceptional woman. No university offered a doctorate in science – only the doctor of philosophy. Though they demanded knowledge of mathematics, baccalaureate examinations did not test for science. By 1860, that changed. These four men made that happen. This is their story.

They all endorsed the inductive method of Francis Bacon. This was not the so-called "strong induction" of Karl Popper and the problem of the black swan which holds that final truth is always elusive because some new discovery will invalidate all we know. Rather, they wrote books and articles about an objective scientific method that begins with observations. Observations become inductive generalities. Those broad descriptions must be fit to a natural law, a deductive truth. However, knowledge does not proceed from pure deduction independent of experience.

Charles Babbage launched the first assault, making his work a personal crusade against the establishment. Reflections on the Decline of Science in England (1830) severely criticized the Royal Society in general and its leaders in particular for creating a social environment inhospitable to professional science, Richard Jones began by addressing economics with An Essay on the Distribution of Wealth, and on the Source of Taxes (1831). It was necessary to begin there because economics in particular was mired in error through rationistic, deductive theories from Thomas Malthus and David Ricardo. Jones demonstrated with statistics - also a new development - that life was getting better, not worse, even for the poorest. Whewell wrote History of the Inductive Sciences (1837) and Philosophy of the Inductive Sciences (1840). Herschel's Preliminary Discourse on the Study of Natural Philosophy (1840) was the introductory volume of Dionysius Lardner's Cabinet Cyclopoedia. His 1859 work, Physical Geography, was part of the Encyclopedia Britannica.

Charles Babbage, William Whewell, William Herschel, and Richard Jones fell out with each other after 50 years largely over religious interpretation. Everyone accepted that species come and go. The fossils that were revealed first by coal mining then by canal building established that. Does God create each new species? Babbage the computer maker said that God made a programmable universe that changes its actions according to a scheme invented once and left to run: "the divine clockmaker" of the Enlightenment. They had a hard time giving up the idea of God. Darwin - a frequent guest of Babbage's - eventually did. 

Only because The Philosophical Breakfast Club is praiseworthy do a couple of egregious errors stand out. Discussing the grief of William Whewell at the passing of his wife, Cordelia, Snyder identifies the elegiac as “a classical form of funereal verse famously employed by Ovid in the seventh century BCE.” (page 311) The elegiac may have its roots in archaic Greek culture, but Ovid (Publius Ovidius Nasso) lived some 600 years later. An editor should have caught that. An editor was probably responsible for the horrendous typographical error giving Maxwell's prediction for the speed of the electromagnetic wave as 310,740,000 miles per second rather than meters per second. (page 364)

Less tractable as an oversight, Snyder accepts our capitalist society (and its abundance), but she does not tie capitalism to the rise of science. Taken at face value, these four savants could have brought science to almost any century, surely any period after the Renaissance. Snyder does point out that people limited the size of their families in order to be able to afford the many new consumer goods, the inexpensive luxuries of mass production. But any medieval fair offered such vanities. Snyder also does identify the fundamental errors in the dire predictions of Malthus and Ricardo. What she misses is that public lectures and demonstrations became commercial ventures (as did symphony concerts). It was no longer necessary to be wealthy (or to have a wealthy patron). Unlike “natural philosophy” science was delivered as a service to consumers by competing providers seeking mass markets. Among those consumers were women. Formally disallowed at the Royal Society, they were welcomed at the British Association for the Advancement of Science. 

Also, Snyder accepts as given the benefits of government funding of science. Certainly, despite its costs and lack of completion, Babbage's Difference Engine would have been a great benefit, had it been constructed. His Analytical Engine would have compounded the return on investment from the public coffers. That said, of course, a consistent advocate of capitalism would have underscored the many private fundings of pure research through "public subscription" -- today called "crowd sourcing." But that was not the book that Snyder wrote. Taken on its own merits, The Philosophical Breakfast Club remains an inspiring story. 

Finally, considering its importance to the story, it would have been nice if Snyder had explained better the theory behind Babbage’s Difference Engine. Again, I understand the problem of mass marketing books about science. Even Stephen Hawking was prevented from using equations. This is what Snyder wrote (page 84):
“The method of finite differences relies on a peculiar fact about polynomial functions. Polynomial functions are algebraic expressions constructed from variables and constants using addition, subtraction, with non-negative, whole number exponents for example F(x) = x2 – 5x + 3. It is mathematical law that any polynomial function of order n will have its nth order difference constant, and each successive new value of the function can be obtained by n simple additions. So, for instance, a polynomial whose highest order is x2 will have its second order of difference constant, and require two additions to reach each successive value.  
“To build a machine that can reliably calculate squares, or any more complex polynomial function, Babbage, realized, he needed only create a machine that could add orders of difference based on initial values of a function and initial values of the orders of difference based on initial values from the start.”

True though that is, it is not illuminating to the reader who does not remember calculus. I would have said:
“Sir Isaac Newton’s calculus showed how to compute rates of change. An object falls to Earth (or the Moon orbits the Earth) with an acceleration proportional to the square of the time in motion. By the same laws, the attraction of gravity diminishes by the square of the distance. It is easy (now 300 years later) to show that the second difference of those squares—what we learned in calculus to call "the second derivative"—is constant. 
 “Therefore, it is possible to construct a machine whose wheels and gears, ratchets, and pawls, crank through these differences to get back to the original function. Because the functions of trigonometry can be expressed as summations of such square-power equations, a machine can calculate any common table needed for navigation – and can do so repeatedly and reliably.”
But I did not write the book. She did. And she did masterful work integrating the biographies of these four savants and putting their lives into context. 

Snyder proves her point first by telling of Darwin, who spent many hours in the company of Babbage. She reinforces the lesson with an introduction to the work of James Clerk Maxwell whose equations about electro-magnetism opened the door to the theory of relativity, which Einstein called “the electrodynamics of moving bodies.”

Many other pleasant suprises are here as well, such as Babbage's attack on the Vigenere Cipher. And if you want to raise a toast to science, you can do it with Booth's gin.