5at5 number 1 | 3 February 2014

5at5 email headerThis is 5at5, bringing you five interesting things that I’ve found on the internet every weekday at around 5pm Sydney time. They’ll be connected to my interests in some way — the politics of the internet and how technology is changing power relationships at every level of society, security and surveillance, military technology and history, language, journalism and human nature. And more.

There’s a little more background in my blog post announcing the project.

It’s always going to be a work in progress, so do let me know what you think, good or bad — just reply to this email and it’ll get to me. And obviously the responsible thing to do it forward it to all of your friends. — Stilgherrian

Forget Cook, Banks was the real Endeavour star — and you can read his journals

A page from Banks’ journalCaptain James Cook was merely the ship-driver when HMS Bark Endeavour explored the east coast of Australia — or so says David Hunt in his book Girt: The Unauthorised History of Australia, which I’ll review somewhere in due course.

Botanist Joseph Banks had been lobbying King George III to run such explorations, so when he was ordered onto the Endeavour he pulled out all the stops. He brought £10,000 worth of his own equipment — the Royal Society had previously managed to mount three entire expeditions for just £4000 in total — along with two scientific colleagues, two artists, four servants and two greyhounds.

As Hunt wrote:

Banks enjoyed life at sea. He got to sleep in a comfy cabin and had packed lots of expensive wine and tasty treats for himself, but his greatest pleasure was sitting on deck and blasting passing seabirds out of the sky — his record was sixty-nine in a day.

Sounds like my sort of chap — at least until you discover his 18th Century social attitudes.

The State Library of New South Wales is in possession of the collected Papers of Sir Joseph Banks and they’ve put them all online, including the Endeavour journal. Every page is provided as a photographic image — but since they’re a bit hard to read, the library has transcribed them all and posted them as PDF files.

Which future maritime patrol aircraft for the UK?

Britain used to rule the oceans, sure, but right now they don’t even have any maritime patrol aircraft. The UK spent £4 billion on developing the Nimrod MRA4 before the late-running project was cancelled in 2010. Now they’re having to make do with Type 23 frigates and Merlin helicopters. Other nations are developing next-generation maritime patrol aircraft, though, so what are the choices?

UK defence policy blog Think Defence has published a three-parter looking at the challenges and missions, Boeing’s new long-range maritime patrol aircraft, the P-8A Poseidon, and other contenders, namely the the Airbus A319 MPA, the Kawasaki P1, refurbished versions of Lockheed Martin’s P-3 Orion, and the refurbished Breguet Atlantique. Contains slobberworthy promotional videos.

กลียุค — Thailand’s Era of Insanity

If you’re wondering why there’s been so much craziness in Thailand during the lead-up to yesterday’s elections, this solid article by freelance journalist Andrew MacGregor Marshall will help. Marshall’s explanation is so blunt that it’s censored in Thailand — and if he ever sets foot in the country again he’d almost certainly be facing a long stretch in jail under the lèse-majesté laws.

Marshall had worked for Reuters for 17 years, including a stint as deputy bureau chief in Bangkok in 2000-2002, but he chose to end that.

At the start of June 2011 I resigned from Reuters, with regret, in order to publish what I consider to be an important and necessary story about Thailand. Because of Thailand’s harsh lèse-majesté, defamation and computer crimes laws, which criminalise telling the truth about powerful figures, it was not possible for Reuters to guarantee the safety of its staff within Thailand if it ran the story.

The need for speed: better fighter pilots through amphetamines

While us mere mortals are working to tight deadlines, we have to make do with a coffee to perk us. Not so the military, who are made of sterner stuff. Just break out the speed!

Hence the existence of this document, Performance Maintenance During Continuous Flight Operations: A Guide for Flight Surgeons (PDF) from the US Navy’s Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center. Published in 2000, it draws upon the USN’s experiences with dishing out the speed for, um, “fatigue management”.

In the foreword, the Chief Surgeon of the Navy, R A Nelson, says:

Historically, the use of medications to maintain performance in aviators is not a new idea. Enclosure (1) notes that the British and Germans used amphetamines during WWII in their pilots. Later, the British used sedatives to regulate sleep for pilots during the Falklands conflict. The US. Air Force and Navy used amphetamines in aviators during Vietnam, and the Air Force used both amphetamines and sedatives during Desert Storm and have used both off and on since. Use in all these circumstances was reported to be safe and effective.

The document also explains how to manage the usage cycle of amphetamines as the “go pill” and sedatives of various kinds a the “no-go pill”, and the USN’s procedures for managing all this.

Remember, as the guide says, “Fatigue is a commodity to by managed.” Exactly, Officer.

Historia Discordia — Documenting the Origins, History & Chaos of the Discordian Society

People occasionally ask me about the quotes at the top of my website. “All hail Eris!” is the greeting of the Discordians, and the Wikipedia entry I linked to there is as reasonable an explanation of Discordianism as any.

It turns out that a bunch of the Discordians’ early documents were (relatively) recently saved from the trash, and they’re gradually fnord being published at Historia Discordia. Thoroughly recommended for a lazy Sunday afternoon read over a cup of tea, or maybe one of those odd-smelling cigarettes.

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[Originally published at: http://tinyletter.com/5at5/letters/5at5-number-1-3-february-2014.]

Links for 08 April 2009 through 19 April 2009

Stilgherrian’s links for 08 April 2009 through 19 April 2009. Yes, I really do need to find a way to vet these and get them online more quickly. Still, here’s some Sunday reading for you.

Fine posts for 2008

Given that mere popularity doesn’t reflect quality, here’s my personal selection of my best, timeless posts for 2008. Happy reading!

Links for 30 November 2008 through 10 December 2008

Here are the web links I’ve found through to 10 December 2008, posted automatically.

  • #mumbai: three days as a Twitter journalist | News.com.au: The story of 21yo Aditya Sengupta, a Mumbai student who became part of the Twitter clearing house for news in the wake of last week’s terrorist attacks.
  • Adler, The Perverse Law of Child Pornography | The Columbia Law Review: “In our present culture of child abuse, is child pornography law the solution or the problem? My answer is that it is both. This reading pictures law and culture as unwitting partners. Both keep the sexualized child before us. Children and sex become inextricably linked, all while we proclaim the child’s innocence. The sexuality prohibited becomes the sexuality produced.” A challenging read.
  • Prospect reads: first rate, brave Economist article on Thailand at First Drafts | The Prospect magazine blog: This post reveals that The Economist‘s feature article on Thailand was written by Peter Collins, their southeast Asia chief, as his final act before moving back to London.
  • Thailand bans Economist | Straits Times: Needless to say, this week’s edition of The Economist is banned in Thailand, tho not “officially”. “This is one of those ‘cultural harmony’ bans, where the book distributors and stores take it on themselves not to distribute,” says free speech activist C J Hinke.
  • Thailand’s monarchy is part of the problem : The king and them | The Economist: Also from The Economist, a bold editorial calling for Thailand to abolish its “archaic” lèse-majesté law.
  • Thailand, its king and its crisis : A right royal mess | The Economist: The controversial cover story from The Economist this week, breaking the taboo on discussing the role of Thailand’s King in politics. It acknowledges that it’ll make Thais squirm, but it delivers one of the most incisive analyses I have yet seen. A must-read for anyone wanting to understand the Kingdom and the choices it faces.
  • Live Filtering Pilot Another Lab Test: DBCDE | How to Be A Systems Engineer: Can this be true? According to the DBCDE officer this guy spoke with, the Phase 2 trials of Australia’s Internet filtering still won’t be real. “This will be a closed network test and will not involve actual customers,” they said.
  • E-mail Etiquette 101 | Michael Hyatt: This is from mid-2007, and the hyphenated “e-mail” is a bit quaint. However these are all still valid points. I continue to be amazed at how poorly most businesses use basic tools like email.
  • Otto the octopus wrecks havoc | Telegraph: Octopuses are smart enough to get bored and start causing trouble.
  • Rolling Your Own Newsroom | O’Reilly Radar: Robert Passarella explains how he wired up a quick custom new page using Google Reader, Yahoo Pipes and some Typepad RSS widgets. The same thing could easily be dong using WordPress plugins or whatever.
  • World's Top Tourist Traps | ForbesTraveler.com: “Not all overcrowded, merchandise-swollen travel hot spots are created equal, and some deserve to be flagged as full-fledged tourist traps.”
  • Breaking news online: A short history and timeline | Teaching Online Journalism: A quick timeline of some major events in online journalism. I think it should include a lot more. Has anyone seen any more comprehensive lists?
  • Inside Story | Politics, Society and Culture: “Launched in October 2008 by Australian Policy Online, Inside Story combines high-quality journalism and analysis to bring readers a distinctive view of Australia and the world. Drawing on a network of writers, researchers and correspondents in Australia and overseas, Inside Story investigates the forces shaping contemporary politics, society and culture. Inside Story is edited at the Institute for Social Research at Swinburne University of Technology.”
  • Net porn: Whose rights matter most? | ABC News: Clive Hamilton has written another piece which tries to equate free speech with pornography, misrepresents the anti-filtering arguments, and deliberate overlooks that filtering won’t work — he even says he’s ignoring that discussion, claiming we should debate the morality of pornography before we look at whether filtering is possible. Full of intellectual dishonesty. Are these really the best arguments there are for comprehensive Internet censorship?
  • The Art of the Title Sequence: What is says: A website dedicated to the opening titles of films and TV programs. I stumbled across it because they’re currently highlighting Soylent Green.
  • A Penny for My Thoughts? | NYTimes.com: A Pasadena, California news site has outsourced all its local journalism to writers in India, who are paid $7.50 per 1000 words.
  • The Musical Compositions of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej: The King of Thailand is, amongst other things, an accomplished jazz musician, playing alto saxophone and writing. This is a selection of his work.
  • A piddling offence and much worse | www.smh.com.au: “Senator Stephen Conroy’s plotting and warring has added to Labor’s decline,” wrote Paul Sheehan in this revealing 2004 article. “His base certainly isn’t the electorate,” he writes. “His power comes from offstage, from the patronage of his mentor, Senator Robert Ray, and his years as a recruiter (his enemies call it branch-stacking), deal-maker and kneecapper for the Victorian Right. His reward was Senate preselection at the age of 31. Once in the Senate, Conroy could start knifing people under the protection of parliamentary privilege. He did not waste any time.”
  • Sharing Around the World | Facebook: This video showcases a Hackathon project that visualizes all the data Facebook receives.