Bag of Randomness for Friday, June 9, 2017

  • That’s a map the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex made by the Soviets sometime in the 1980’s. I found this on Reddit along with a lengthy article – Inside the Secret World of Russia’s Cold War Mapmakers
    • The maps are still a taboo topic in Russia today, so it’s impossible to know for sure, but what they’re finding suggests that the Soviet military maps were far more than an invasion plan. Rather, they were a framework for organizing much of what the Soviets knew about the world, almost like a mashup of Google Maps and Wikipedia, built from paper.
    • “Large-scale maps for ordinary consumers had to be compiled using the 1:2,500,000 map of the Soviet Union, with the relevant parts enlarged to the needed scale,” he wrote. That’s like taking a road map of Texas and using a photocopier to enlarge the region around Dallas. You can blow it up all you want, but the street-level details you need to find your way around the city will never be there. Worse, the maps for the masses were deliberately distorted with a special projection that introduced random variations. “The main goal was to crush the contents of maps so it would be impossible to recreate the real geography of a place from the map,” Postnikov tells me. Well-known landmarks like rivers and towns were depicted, but the coordinates, directions, and distances were all off, making them useless for navigation or military planning, should they fall into enemy hands. The cartographer who devised this devious scheme was awarded the State Prize by Stalin.
    • The US military made maps during the Cold War too, of course, but the two superpowers had different mapping strategies that reflected their different military strengths
      • “The US military’s air superiority made mapping at medium scales adequate for most areas of the globe,” Forbes says. As a result, he says, the US military rarely made maps more detailed than 1:250,000, and generally only did so for areas of special strategic interest. “The Soviets, on the other hand, were the global leaders in tank technology.” Maneuvering that army required large-scale maps, and lots of them, to cover smaller areas in more detail. “These maps were created so that if and when the Soviet military was on the ground in any given place, they would have the info they needed to get from point A to point B.”
    • Other tables give the distances for visual objects (a lit cigarette can be visible up to 8,000 meters away at night, but you’d have to get within 100 meters to make out details of a soldier’s weaponry in daylight).
  • Concept cars usually look fantastic and the finished product is often “meh”. I wonder if there has ever been the case in which the finished product looked better than the concept.
  • I’ve concluded rutabaga is just as fun to say as zucchini.
  • I’ve gotten to the point I’d rather misspell a word while typing and correct it with auto-correct than taking the time to try to spell it correctly. Too many times I’ve lost my train of thought because I was too busy trying to figure out the correct spelling of a word. However, over the years, I’ve learned my ability to spell has suffered greatly. All of this came to mind because I couldn’t spell rutabaga or zucchini.
  • Why printers add secret tracking dots
  • io9 – The New Darth Vader Comic Gives Us a Much Better Version of Revenge of the Sith’s Infamous “Noooo!”
  • Game of Thrones’ season 7 finale will be 81 minutes long
  • Yesterday, Barry over at briefly wrote about how saluting is a gesture associated with the military but is now commonplace. That reminded me of a childhood memory of my father I’ve been wanting to share but feared getting raked over the coals. So here it goes.
    • It didn’t happen often, but my father, a WWII, Korea, and Vietnam Vet had several other war veteran friends over to play cards back in 1981. President Reagan started the practice of saluting military personal and it upset these vets. The use a lot of colorful languages, but I think summed up their discussion well:
      • The President of the United States is a civilian. He is not a member of the US Military and is therefore not entitled to salute. The military salute is a privilege earned by honorable service in the military. It is also a privilege that can be taken away. Military prisoners are stripped of the privilege of saluting. While the President is Constitutionally the CINC, he is not a member of the military. One of the core principles of our country is our military is under civilian control. The President is that civilian authority over the military as is the Secretary of Defense and the Secretaries of the branches of the armed services.
    • I do recall one of the men saying it was just a harmless salute, and another stating something to the effect, “A salute is not harmless, it’s a military privilege, and Reagan has cheapened it for glorifying his image. Hell, Ike never saluted as president.” The vet replied back it was just courteous.
    • In 1986, Reagan provided a light-hearted explanation of why he salutes (paragraphs seven and eight).
    • There was a bit of talk about how “Army regulations, for example, state that neither civilians nor those wearing civilian attire (both of which describe the U.S. president) are required to render salutes.
    • As a kid, I thought it was really neat hearing old men argue about the leader of our country, laugh, curse, laugh, yell and insult, and laugh together again.
    • It’s my memory of this conversation which caused me to become upset at then-President George W. Bush for wearing military garb flying to the now infamous “Mission Accomplished” speech. But I think nicely sums up my feelings about all of this and throws in an interesting caveat about presidents who have served:
      • Is the newly founded tradition a harmless gesture of support to members of the military? Or, is it rather, a slow erosion of the principle of civilian rule over the military? While, as an Air Force Staff Sergeant, I enjoyed watching President Reagan show his respect for the military openly by returning the salutes to us. However, I actually resented President Bush’s wearing of a military uniform while serving as President. Some presidents, like both Bushes, Carter, Kennedy, and Reagan have earned the right to salute as veterans of our military forces. Other’s like Clinton and Obama did not.
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5 Responses to Bag of Randomness for Friday, June 9, 2017

  1. Ben W. says:

    I agree with you about POTUS saluting the military. It's a "tradition" that only goes as far back as Reagan, but any president who didn't do it now would be lambasted by a certain segment of our country, so they dare not stop it. It's political theater.

  2. RPM says:

    Agree with both these comments.

  3. Mike Honcho says:

    Great article you shared on the Soviet maps of America. I really enjoyed that Keith. Could you share a link where we can look at that map you have in the pic above? I would love to see the maps of Texas. Thanks!

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