Friday, January 25, 2013

Friday Mad Science: Manhattan Trailer Parks, Women in Combat, and Old Man Winter

As I write this, it’s eight degrees outside, and I gotta say, all this cold weather is messing with my mind.  I went running on Wednesday afternoon, and I swear it was the coldest run of my life.  Forget winters in Korea; this was no-shit cold.  Temps in the low twenties with maybe eighteen miles per hour of wind coming in right off the frozen Long Island Sound.  Yikes!
I was fine for the first four miles or so, but then I got past the beach and made the turn for home, and suddenly the wind was in my face, blowing straight in off the salt marsh, and it honest-to-God took my breath away.
I’ve heard that running or riding in cold weather forces your body to burn more calories, and although science seems to dispute this, the fact is that I felt it.  When I got done with Wednesday’s run, I felt like I’d been on the wrong end of a beating.  MapMyRun seemed to think I’d burned something like a thousand calories; it felt more like two thousand.
Anyway, looking at the weather app on my phone, it looks like it’s supposed to warm up a little later today--all the way into the upper twenties, wahoo!--before getting back to seasonably cold weather starting next week.  I can tell you right now that I’m about ready for that.  I haven’t been on my bike at all this week, and I miss it.  But not enough to ride in single-digit temps in the mornings on my way to work.
“The apartment of New York City’s future, as the city imagines it, has all the amenities of modern life: wheelchair-accessible bathroom, a full kitchen, space for entertaining and access to a gym, communal lounge, front and back porches and a rooftop garden — all in 250 to 370 square feet...
Forty percent of the units will be affordable, restricted to tenants earning no more than $77,190 a year, with the rest at market rate. Rents start at $914 a month for those earning up to $38,344 a year, well below Manhattan’s average studio rent of $2,000, and go up to $1,873 for those making $77,190 or less.”
Truth is, it’s a facinating design.  Like a part of the International Space Station or something.  There’s a single open area that’s both dining room and bedroom--you either fold the table out to eat or bring the bed down out of the wall to sleep--and then there’s a kitchen nook and a bathroom/closet area.  Moreover, these things are modular.  They’re basically little containers which you stack “like legos” to create a whole ten-story building.  Presumably there’s some kind of framework built around the legos to provide access and structural support to the building as a whole, but the article didn’t go into that.
Anyway, as I noted earlier, the whole thing reminded me of a trailer park, except that this being New York, the trailers were stacked on top of one another rather than being laid out in a grid like you’d see in any other part of the country.  But what’s crazy about it is that people are gonna sign up to live there--and that they probably can’t wait to do so.
From Wikipedia's Commons.
Women have been flying OH-58s in combat
for years now.
I read this morning that women are finally being allowed to serve in combat in the military, and frankly, I can’t help but wonder what the Hell these people think that women in uniform have been doing up until to now.  A friend of mine was killed flying a Kiowa Warrior over Iraq a few years ago by an insurgent with an RPG, and I’m pretty sure she wasn’t up there doing her nails.  If the brass is only now realizing that we’ve had women fighting for the last decade, then it’s high time they got their heads out of their asses.
While we’re talking about the military...
I don’t know that I still have a right to have an opinion about it this stuff anymore, but I still follow the issues as best I can, and I thought it was interesting to see some of the reactions to yesterday’s news from some of my friends who are still in the service.  One of my friends who’s a pilot said something like, “Hooray!  It’s too late for me, but this is great for the women of the future.”  Undoubtedly true.  Meanwhile, one who is an infantry officer said, essentially, “I hope we can do this without turning the Army into a social experiment.  It would be a Hell of a shame if we compromised our nation’s security just to appease the Liberal agenda.”  Also a fair point.  
It’s hard for me to imagine that there are more than five women in a hundred who would be physically capable of winning a bayonette fight against, say, a North Korean infantryman.  With that said, however, I think it’s fair to ask how many bayonette fights there are in the American Army’s future.  I mean, I had a Boxing professor one time who claimed to have won a bayonette fight as a young officer in Vietnam--he was the only person I’ve ever met who has even so much as claimed to have fixed a bayonette in anger--but you know, those guys are always so full of shit that who knows what the truth really was.  It could easily be that he merely fixed his bayonette in place and then shot some guy.  Most of the women soldiers I know could manage that.
In any event, the Army’s problem isn’t that it isn’t effective or that it’s somehow going to lose its edge.  It may well lose something while it’s integrating women into the infantry, but even if it does, I think you have to keep the change in perspective.  If the Army after the First Gulf War was an 8 out of 10 on the effectiveness scale, then let’s acknowledge that the last decade or so of war has had an effect and realistically assess it now as at, say, 6/10.  Then we’ll throw in this issue of women in the infantry and cut it again, giving these guys a score of maybe 5/10.
The thing is, even if the U.S. Army is at 5/10, the next closest competitor is probably at 3/10, and it’s France.  The next closest one after that is probably closer to 2/10, and it’s Japan.  Yes, pacifist Japan has--easily--the second most powerful military in the world, and they’re on our side.  
You don’t believe me, do you?  Heh.
Believe it or not, it’s actually MacArthur’s fault. He re-wrote the Japanese constitution, and he put their defense spending levels right in the document.  The Japanese are constitutionally obligated to spend exactly 1% of GDP on their self-defense force, and since Japan has had the second-largest economy on the planet for the past thirty years or more, that puts their historic military spending levels far beyond those of either Russia or China.  Add in their relative technical advantage, and voila!  Our next closest military competitor is also our second-strongest ally.
My point here is that the U.S. Army is not in any real danger of losing any wars on the battlefield.  No one fights the American Army head-on, nor is there anyone who is even seriously considering making the attempt.  No, the Army’s efficacy is not at issue, nor is it really a potential problem as far as the nation’s security is concerned.  The problem is that the Army is too effective by half, to the point where people are trying to use what is fundamentally a blunt instrument to do things that, honestly, you really ought to do with a scalpel.  
I mean, yeah, you want to do brain surgery, the first thing you need to do is crack open the skull.  But after that, it’s time to put away the bone saw and get out an instrument that’s more well-suited to fine work.  But in this country, we only believe in quick fixes, meaning that as long as we’ve got a doctor with a bone saw, and he’s already standing right there next to the patient, we might as well have him try to perform the whole operation, even if comes out a little messy.
This is why I shouldn’t comment on this stuff.  It is, in fact, the largest part of why I left the Army.  Bottom line, I just wanted to do different work with my life.  
That doesn’t change the fact that the very vast majority of diplomatic and international political problems in this world could be better solved with diplomacy, economic tools, and statecraft than with the simple hammer of physical violence.  You may argue that the Army is more than just a hammer, but I would counter that it’s mission is and has been to fight and win our nation’s wars and that anything else is a misapplication of the Army’s fundamental properties.  
Which is to say that it’s fine to carry a big stick, but you still have to have the ability to talk softly.  It strikes me that somewhere along the line this country has forgotten that.  They want to hit you with the stick first and then try to bargain with your relatives while we all stand around looking at your corpse.
My daughter Emma has to be the most voracious reader of comic books that I’ve eveer seen.  She’s read nearly every comic that I own that’s at least semi-appropriate for a seven-year-old, and all week she’s been demanding new books.  So I finally gave in and introduced her to the Dan Abnett/Andy Lanning Guardians of the Galaxy, of which I have eighteen or so issues stored on my Nexus tablet.
Marvel/Disney released this concept art to support the
forthcoming Guardians of the Galaxy film last year.
Peter Quill (aka Star Lord) is in the center.
Rocket Racoon is on his left (our right).
Needless to say, Emma’s favorite character in the Guardians is Rocket Racoon.  My question is, with a Guardians’ movie scheduled for release next year starring Rocket Racoon, how the Hell is Marvel going to introduce the character?  They’ve kind of hinted at Peter Quill’s new super hero origin in some of the recent Marvel NOW stuff, but Rocket Racoon is such a weird idea--granted a weird idea that’s well-executed, but still--that it’s easy to imagine him derailing the whole movie.
More Rocket Racoon.
From Wikipedia's Commons, per usual.
Anyway, I’ve also been reading a Dan Abnett/Andy Lanning joint--Boom! Studios’ The Hypernaturals.  The series started out kind of slow for my taste, but the last few issues have been terrific.
Fact is, there’s not enough good sci fi out there, especially in comics.  But The Hypernaturals, at least, helps fill the void.
And that’s about all I’ve got time for this week.  Have a great weekend!

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