Wednesday, August 28, 2013

A short guide to the Middle East

The Middle East Explained In One Excellent Letter To The Editor

This letter to the editor from Mr. K. N. Al-Sabah ran in the Aug 24th edition of Financial Times.  It was then picked up by BuzzFeed.

This Quixotic quote inspired me to attempt a drawing of the social network described in Mr. Al-Sabah's letter.

Assuming we do want to get involved in the Middle East, do we know enough to actually make the situation better?
Look in the comments under the article as it appears in BuzzFeed and you will find a visualization by Derpina which takes the form of a Flow Chart.
The first problem I have with Derpina's visualization is that the Turks are Sunni, not Shia. The second problem is that the flow chart makes the situation look deterministic, which is misleading. 
I believe my spaghetti chart above captures the chaos more accurately, in my never humble but always biased opinion.
That said, I believe this version by the Elder of Zion is even better. His is an improvement on one created by another blogger, the big Pharaoh. As the Elder of Zion states, any attempt to understand this situation will change daily.
I wonder if this idea of graphing the complex social networks in the Middle East would make a fun parlor game? I wonder what I will think of this post when I look back on it in 10 years?

Friday, August 23, 2013

New SHARP director says Army must defeat sexual assault to maintain public trust

Public trust in the Army is high. To maintain that trust, the Army must defeat sexual assault in its ranks.
Attribution: Photo and caption are from the original 22 Aug 2013 article by C. Todd Lopez at 

I just read this article and I find it encouraging. Cheers for Dr. Altendorf and the new Army SHARP Office!

Obviously bringing a General Officer-level leader to the SHARP helm raises program visibility--as well as  expectations. Fortunately, the increased attention is going to integration--horizontally with Provost Marshal General and Inspector General (as well as previously involved Criminal Investigation Command, Army Medical Command, and the Office of the Judge Advocate General), and vertically with the Department of Defense and through them with the other services. This portends well.

Lots more work to do, but the language of “defeat” sexual assault is much more productive than the unrealistic “eliminate.” I also like “maintain” trust which communicates that we are at risk of losing trust, not conceding that is already lost and must be won back. Subtle changes but powerful. We still do a lot of things right in the Army.

As a 28-year veteran, my heart burns about this problem, but I am not ready to hand the solution over to those who, like Sen. Gillibrand, would dismantle the Army to “save” it. God bless her for putting more pressure on the services, but her proposed solutions would be counter-productive in my humble and biased opinion.

Culture change is the goal, and the standard is when parents concerned about their children joining the Army are neutral on the  question of blue-on-blue sexual violence—not because the human beings in the military are suddenly angels but because rape is once again less likely to occur in the military than any other possible place where their son or daughter might go instead.  

Back in the old days, when the purpose of the Army was to fight and win our Nation's wars, parents’ biggest concern about sending their kids off to the Army was that their learning how to kill people, break things, and dodge bullets would scar them for life.  I am sure that some victims of military sexual violence would contend that not all scars are the same.

It is my hope that Dr. Altendorf will engage data-fueled, truth-seeking, action-oriented researchers and analysts to help solve this problem.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Where will YOU be August 11-18, 2013?

It's the 5th Annual DC Beer Week! Get out and support your LOCAL brewers and have a good time!

Websites you'll need

Hashtags of note
  • #DCBW2013
  • #dcbrews
  • #DCBeerWeek

Articles in WaPo and City Paper

Recap of Main Events:

There are Flagship events for all 8 days in the week and scores of other events in venues all over town. Eight days a week? Yep, the "week" includes two Sundays. But everybody is doing SOMETHING, so just let these Flagship events serve to whet your appetite--then go wet your whistle!

  • Sunday: Brewery Ommegang & WCP Present "Hop Chef: Special Edition" - Official Opening Ceremony of DCBW '13
  • Monday: DC Heritage Night at the Howard Theater
  • Tuesday: Gordon Biersch English Summer Ale Tasting
  • Wednesday: RFD's Coast to Coast Tap Takeover
  • Thursday: Nationals Night
  • Friday: Blind & Bitter: Hop Face-Off with DCBeer, Scion, Crios
  • Saturday: Old Ebbitt Grill's Craft Brewhaha
  • Sunday: The Bluejacket Sneak Preview BBQ
  • Wednesday, August 7, 2013

    HaPpY 3d BiRtHdAy, PhiLosFX!!

    Big Splash birthday party invitation by Persimmon, for sale on

    6 Aug: At midnight GMT (8 pm Eastern) between 6 and 7 Aug, I ended 36 months of blogging, and officially started month 37.

    Whether this is your first post or #637, thanks for reading. You are helping celebrate three years of Philosophy + Special Effects here at PhilosFX!

    Let's have a look at some of the performance metrics we have used to spark and track progress:

    In closing, please come with me on a little trip down memory lane and review our most viewed, personal favorite, and most commented on posts:

    Our most popular post, and with good reason, is the illustrated history of the Road King

    My personal favorite post is the one about the burgeoning brewing scene in the DC area.

    Winner of the "Most Comments" badge is this spam-magnet. Before Google fixed the problem with spam comments, everyone and his brother chose this post to share their links to weight loss, hair growth, and penis enlargement formulas.

    Finally, here are our celebratory posts from the past two birthdays (2011 and 2012):

    It's been a great adventure so far. Here's to many more months of exploring, discovering, and sharing! And now that we have made it to this august milestone, I won't be tracking these statistics quite as aggressively anymore...

    Blog Stats
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