We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Another year, another ISDC

I have been writing madly while cruising at 40,000 some feet on my way back to New York. The entire midwest is clear and I can see towns and cities laid out from horizon to horizon, orange grids and cloudy distant nebula sprinkled in the pitch black under the stars.

After my last post during the ISDC I was too deep into sleep deprivation and too swamped with work to attempt coherent discourse. Other than meals I hardly saw any of the other sessions. I did at least get in much late night party time with old and new friends
…continue Another year, another ISDC

Trafalgar – and after

Men of Honour: Trafalgar and the Making of the English Hero Adam Nicolson HarperCollins, 2005

The Campaign of Trafalgar Julian S. Corbett Trafalgar Square Publishing, 2005

Admiral Collingwood, Nelson’s own hero Max Adams Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2005

Wellington’s Navy: Sea Power and the Peninsular War, 1807-1814 Christopher D. Hall Chatham Publishing, 2004

Start with a howler

It must be rare for a reader on opening a book to encounter a howler in line one, page one (to be pedantic, of the first Preface page, p. xiii), of a historical work, but Adam Nicolson has managed it: “More Catholics were
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A new stand at the Oval – and some celebration pictures

Last Monday, England won the Ashes. (If I tell myself this often enough, I will eventually believe it.) And when I mentioned this fact (for fact it is) here, I mentioned also the rather fine new stand that they have just built at the Oval, where that final clinching game of the series was played.

Today I walked across the river to the Oval and took some photos of this new stand. And I have done a posting about how it looks at my personal blog, together with some pictures snapped from the TV coverage. And then I found this
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The Writer on Hampstead Heath

Yesterday I visited Hampstead Heath, to renew my acquaintance with the magnificent view of London that you can see from there, and also to see this rather entertaining sculpture, installation, visual pun, prank, call it what you will. Basically, it is a giant table and chair. It is called “The Writer”, because your average writer uses a table and a chair when writing. Hampstead Heath was chosen by The Writer’s creator, Giancarlo Neri, because of Hampstead’s literary associations. It will be on the Heath until October.

Click on these squares to get bigger pictures:



You cannot please
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Closing in on the Edge of Space

On May 13th, Mike Melville piloted Scaled Composites SpaceShipOne to an altitude of 40 miles. At 50 miles a USAF pilot would be granted their Astronaut Wings. The Federation Aeronautique International (FAI) defines the boundary of space as 100 kilometers, just over 62 miles.

Here is the Scaled Composites flight report:

Objectives: The third powered flight of SpaceShipOne. 55 seconds motor burn time. Handling qualities during boost and performance verification. Reaction control system use for reorientation to entry attitude. Supersonic feather stability and control.

Results: Launch conditions were 46,000 feet and 120 knots. Motor light off occurred 10 seconds
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Reflections on NASA’s grim anniversaries

This post is not going to be about “NASA screwed up, how come after 40 years we still have a space ‘program’ and not a space industry, NASA is drifting off focus and no longer has a clearly defined mission, etc.” I will leave it to someone else to write that column, because Rand Simberg (or our own Dale Amon) could do it a lot better than I could anyway.

What I do want to talk about is: how the way information is organized and presented can make a difference in how it is received – and how bureaucracy can
…continue Reflections on NASA’s grim anniversaries

Wherever you go, whatever you do

There are several disturbing features of this panoptican state in which we will soon be living not the least of which is the sheer breakneck pace of its assembly.

It seems like only yesterday that speed cameras suddenly appeared on every lamppost but even they are so much old hat now:

Automatic Number Plate Recognition systems are set to be deployed by police forces throughout the UK as a major plank of a campaign of “denying criminals the use of the roads.” The system will link up to the DVLA, Police National Computer and a National Insurance Database, with these
…continue Wherever you go, whatever you do

Panoramic view from Mt Everest

Just to make sure we don’t go the whole day without anything being posted to Samizdata at all (even if it is a holiday in both the US and the UK) might I direct people to this stunning panoramic view from the top of Mt Everest. (Quicktime required). I do so simply because it is beautiful. (via James Russell).

I have not been to the top of Everest myself, but I have seen a similar view from the top of Mt Lobuje East, which is about five kilometres away in horizontal terms, and two and a half kilometres lower in
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Millions for defense, not one cent for tribute

The second instalment, from the same source, of historical events relevant to current affairs, as it often seems with history. This is due to the comments on the previous posting about slave trade by Muslim corsairs, correctly identifying who took them on.

More effective were the exploits of the Americans, who put the British government on its mettle. The activities of the corsairs, who did not scruple to kidnap Yankee sailors, led to the new republic’s first experiment in geopolitics. It was principally on their account that Congress decided to establish a navy in 1794, and America consistently refused to
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Micklethwait’s Law of Negotiated Misery

We all know about those archetypal laws. Parkinson‘s – work expands to fill the time available for its completion. The Peter Principle – people get promoted until they reach their level of incompetence. They’re useful laws. They answer basic questions. Like: Why all the crap? Why is everything done so badly?

Well, I think I may have discovered another one of these universal laws, which answers the question: Why are so many people who you would think ought to be happy instead so miserable? I give you: Micklethwait’s Law of Negotiated Misery.

It starts with the observation that more and
…continue Micklethwait’s Law of Negotiated Misery

Conservatives up the creek

I suppose it is only to be expected that Iain Duncan Smith would round off the Conservative Conference in Bournemouth with a triumphal assertion that the ‘the Tories are back’. The poor man could hardly do otherwise having presided over a week of fractious in-fighting, broody soul-searching and insurrectionary plots to topple him as leader. He just had to try to end things on an upbeat note and stamp his authority.

But is he right? Like Perry, I think that the answer is ‘no’ and, furthermore, I feel that the situation is unlikely to be improved by any well-spun policy
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God is Coming

With so much in the world to write about, comment upon, illuminate, satirise and analyse, I can no longer remain oblivious to the elephant that has rudely bashed down my door and lumbered into my room.

He’s been loitering outside for a good while now, occasionally catching my eye with a baleful and accusatory glance. Thus far, I have succeeded in shutting him out but I still catch a glimpse of him through the crack in my curtains; I lie in bed at night and hear his tail swishing to-and-fro and feel the bump as his ample haunches scrape against
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