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Month: September 2011


A (Scientific) History of Violence

Today, something completely different. In a frankly amazing article/report, scientist Steven Pinker -- perhaps best known for writing about the brain and language -- has gone some great distance toward proving something that seems kind of intuitively false: which is that we are all now living in one of the most peaceful periods in human history and that violence itself is trending massively downward. I know, I know, it seems unlikely. But the man has statistics! Despite all the wars we hear about everyday (and for the past couple thousand days), Pinker's data seems to indicate that, charted over history's long course, humans are growing more civilized and more peaceful. It's certainly disputable. Frankly, given that something like 200 million people died violently in the 20th century, i...
Letters From Bill

Letters From Bill – July 23, 1943.

Dear Mum, Dad and Jack: My last letter was the one I wrote last Sunday night out in the bush…for the next two days it rained. Just picture us marching five miles after supper and it raining cats and dogs and then sleeping under a tree with one blanket and a groundsheet. In the morning I was about three feet from where I lay down. We were soaked for two days. When I did get back I was so darn busy the last two days and nights I couldn’t catch time to write. Please excuse the writing because I am sitting on my bed writing on top of a mess tin.  Right now it is dinner time and I am waiting for the pipes to play to go back on parade. Well the pipes blew Mum and a whole day has gone by since I was writing before. It is now Saturday afternoon. I tried to get this finished but it just couldn’t...
Letters From Bill

Letters From Bill – July 18, 1943.

Dear Mum, Dad and Jack: Here I am sitting in the General’s office calmly taking my leisure time at ease. Since I have just sent him out to shine my boots and at present I have my work done, I thought I would drop you a line and give you what news there is. Of course, I am quite busy running this place in a proper manner but have worked out a chart which makes it quite a bit easier. The General is of some use but I cannot depend on him to the fullest. All fooling aside folks if you could see me now after that bit I wrote you would laugh.  We have just finished a nineteen- or twenty-mile route march and I am lying down beneath a big tree Somewhere in England. This is Sunday but it doesn’t seem to make any difference to the Canadian Army in England…. This makes three weeks and we haven’t ha...

The Japanese Threat: Impounded On The West Coast: Navy, Part 47

In 1939, the bulk of the pre-war Royal Canadian Navy—four of six destroyers—had been deployed on the Pacific coast in response to the very real threat of war with Japan. War with Germany soon stripped British Columbia of its naval forces, so that when war with Japan came there was little in place. Superficially, then, the naval situation in B.C. in December 1941 was reminiscent of August 1914 when the cruiser Rainbow was the only ship guarding Canada’s west coast against the might of the German Asiatic Squadron. In truth, things were quite different. The Japanese navy that secured B.C. from German Admiral Graf von Spee’s ships 27 years earlier was now the threat. It was one of the most powerful fleets in the world, with large surface and aircraft carrier forces and a modern submari...

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