The Hiroshima Decision

Every August, you start seeing essays from professional and amateur journalists on the usage of the atomic bombs to end WWII. This month marks the 75th anniversary of that occasion, so you know there are going to be plenty more. And if this year is like all others, some of those essays will contain (or will have comments that contain) much wailing and gnashing of teeth about how we didn’t have to drop the bombs.

At least some of their reasoning involves post facto arguments, in that they use information that wasn’t available at the time. Or they rehash old, tired arguments that have been acknowledged and dismissed with justification.

What if we went back to the summer of 1945, and looked at the matter using only that information which was available at the time?

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Site Maintenance – 1

Just a little note to announce there’s a new “page” tab thing up at the top: a quick index for all my book reviews posted here. There are more than I thought I had! I wonder if I should bother adding a note or symbol to indicate the general category of the books: Baseball, History, Science, Science Fiction…. Perhaps later….

BOOK REVIEW: Danubia

Danubia: A Personal History of Habsburg Europe
Simon Winder
Farrar, Straus, and Giroux
Copyright 2013 by the author

Like his earlier Germania, this is not your typical political or military history of a nation. Nor is it a religious or cultural history – even though Winder does discuss those subjects. It’s not even a “People’s History” of the sort that Howard Zinn might have written. Instead, it’s what you might get if a good friend of yours spent months traveling across a large part of Europe, visiting a bunch of odd and out-of-the way sites of historical interest, then decided to weave all the stories of his visits into one fun and interesting narrative.

Winder lets you know almost from the start that the tale is going to be gloomier than the one in Germania, his history of Germany. Here, with the Habsburg Empire (to be later known as the Austrian Empire and then the Austro-Hunugarian Empire), the story is one of a long, slow decline with very few moments of glory. The inbreeding of the royal line had a good deal to do with that; the most noticeable result was the infamous “Habsburg Chin” defect. His ever-present wit and occasional light snark cannot fully hide that. You can only adjust a portrait of the Emperor so much before it loses all resemblance….

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More Birdwatching Notes

Way back when I was first starting this blog, one of my posts was an essay about birdwatching from my living room window. I still live in the same place, and although the apartment complex management cut down some of the trees (the ones just outside the window, naturally) and installed some new LED floodlights for the parking area (which are SO BRIGHT I need an eyemask to sleep), there are still plenty of birds to see.

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Life under COVID-19

Things are very strange…. Well, I can’t come up with a proper word to describe it. But I doubt anyone can. We are living in Interesting Times, as the Chinese curse has it. Personally, I’m doing OK. I work for the county government, so I’m an “essential employee” in one aspect, and even though I only go into the office once or twice a week (there’s a lot of mail that still needs to be dealt with), my union is making sure I get paid. The days I’m not in the office, I’m “working from home” for payroll purposes.

I have been unemployed for some long periods before, so I’m used to doing very little. Unlike those times when I could go places and do things but I didn’t have the money, now I have the money, but there’s no place to go. I walk around the neighborhood a lot and visit the nature centers in my area for a hike when the weather cooperates. Have to get exercise somehow.

Keeping a routine is worthwhile. A bit of reading and housework in the morning, goofing off on the computer in the afternoon, a break for more reading and a walk before dinner, then more computer at night. One needs to keep a sound mind in a sound body. I feel a bit disappointed in myself that I’m not really using the time for self-betterment.

Shopping is odd. I live within a few minutes walk of two supermarkets, so there’s no reason to not pop over to one when I need something. I’ve got my mask (a bandana-type one that I hacked out of an old bedsheet), and I’m paying attention to the Six Foot Rule of Social Distancing. The real odd feeling is the internal debate I occasionally have. “Hmm. I know I’m running low on bar soap. Should I get the only package on the shelves – of a brand that I never get because it’s so darned expensive compared to other brands – or wait and hope another shipment comes in before I run out completely?”

I really wish a few other stores would open up, though. A hike through the woods is great, but my hiking boots (well, the right one at any rate) are coming apart. The upper is separating from the sole, so I dare not go out when the ground is muddy or soft. I’ve tried glue, but it doesn’t last. I do know that it’s possible to but things online, but my feet are of an odd size. I have to actually try on a pair of shoes before I buy them (the last time I got new shoes, I had to try on three pairs – all labeled with the same size – before finding a pair that fit).

Free e-books from The Gutenberg Project and Feedbooks are nice. Though I do wish there was an easy way to tell the length of an e-book. It’s annoying to curl up with my reader and settle in for a novel – only to find out it’s really a short story. Maybe I’m just not looking closely enough at the descriptions.

I have a few little panic attacks. “Uh-oh! I’m feeling hot and sweaty all of a sudden! Am I coming down with it?” Then I remember that I just had some hot soup….so….. Yeah, I’m going to be sweating a little. Let’s hope that’s all it is.

I wonder how much I’m racking up in overdue fines from library books that were supposed to have been returned six weeks ago.

Analyzing my Writing

My usual subjects are in short supply these days. The libraries are closed, so I can’t get any new books. Baseball is shut down, so there’s nothing there to talk about. Politics is too depressing.

What’s this blogger to do?

A while back I started wondering about my style of writing. Am I too wordy, too complex, or too simple? I found that there are a bunch of “text analyzer tools” out there online, so I figured I’d run a few posts through one of those and see what came out.

Yes, I’m bored.

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Eurovision 2020

Among the many events that have become “casualties” of the coronavirus is this year’s Eurovision Song Contest. With the pandemic raging across Europe, it was decided that it just wouldn’t be safe to have an event bringing thousands of people into Rotterdam for an international “battle of the bands”. When the announcement of the cancellation was made, there was no small amount of wailing and gnashing of teeth from fans, expressing dismay that their favorite artists and songs would be forgotten.

As it happens, all the participants and their songs had been announced prior to the cancellation. So one could easily support their favorites by purchasing their music – even the official CD compilation. Also, Eurovision officials have stated that while this year’s songs will NOT be eligible next year, there’s nothing to prevent any of this year’s performers from being chosen to represent their countries next year in Rotterdam (the host city this year, and the presumptive host next year).

As far as the Grand Final show is concerned, organizers are working on a special concert in lieu of the finals.

And if you miss the voting and drama (such as it is), the people behind the “My Eurovision Scoreboard” app have set up a polling among their users to pick a winner. It’s being done along the same lines as the real competition, with two semi-finals and a Grand Final. They’ve already done their voting for the First Semi-Final:

I can’t tell if that’s some careful editing or if they actually did manage to get two real Eurovision hosts to announce their winners. If it’s the latter, you have to give some real applause to them.

I wonder who they will announce as their winner…..

Rookies of the Year

A while back, I noted that the Mets and Astros were both going to wind up with the Cy Young Award winners and the Rookies of the Year in their respective leagues. This led to a nice (in my opinion) essay on how often that happened in the past. While doing the research for that essay, I naturally had to go over the list of Rookies of the Year. I kept seeing all-time greats, solid players whose names made me go “oh, yeah, that guy!”, and players where I went “Huh?”

I started musing. Whatever happened to the Rookies of the Year?

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Sign Stealing

It just won’t go away. In 2017, the Houston Astros came up with a scheme to tip their batters off as to what sort of pitch was on the way. Major League Baseball found out about it, and then everything went bonkers.

The team was heavily fined, people lost their jobs, other teams are implicated in similar schemes, no one knows what or who to believe. Commissioner Manfred fumbled the PR response; so did the Astros. Fans are outraged; some even calling for the team to have its World Series win that year vacated (whether the Dodgers get to be called World Champions is not mentioned). Many players are openly expressing their anger. There’s been talk of some sort of on-field retribution against certain suspect players.

But there’s one big question that very few people are asking.

Just how much does it help you to know what type of pitch is coming?

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