Non-Fiction

The Diary of Tanya Savicheva

5 January 2017

From Orthodoxy and the World (translated from the original Russian):

Twelve-year old Tanya Savicheva started her diary just before Anne Frank. They were of almost the same age and wrote about the same things – about the horrors of fascism. And, again, both these girls died without seeing victory day – Tanya died in July of 1944 and Anne in March of 1945. «The Diary of Anne Frank» was published all over the world and told the author’s story to many people. «The Diary of Tanya Savicheva» was not published at all – it contains only seven scary notes about the deaths of her family members in Leningrad at the time of the Blockade. This small notebook was presented at the Nuremberg trials as a document condemning the terrors of fascism.

Today «The Diary of Tanya Savicheva» is in the museum of history of Leningrad (now St. Petersburg ) and a copy is at the Piskarev cemetery where 570 thousand people who died in Leningrad during the 900-day blockade rest (1941-1943).

The child’s hand, losing strength quickly due to extreme hunger, wrote short words and wrote them unevenly. The delicate soul of the child was paralyzed by extreme suffering and was unable to feel anymore. Tanya just wrote down facts that surrounded her – tragic visits of death to her home.

«Grandma died on the 25th of January at 3’o’clock 1942.»

«Leka died on the 17th of March at 5 in the morning. 1942.»

«Uncle Vasya died on the 13th of April at 2 in the afternoon. 1942.»

«Uncle Lyusha died on the 10th of May at 4 in the afternoon. 1942.»

«Mom died on the 13th of March at 7:30 in the morning. 1942»

« Everyone died . Only Tanya is left .»

Link to the rest at Orthodoxy and the World

The siege of Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) lasted 872 days (often rounded up to 900 days), from September 8, 1941, to January 27, 1944.

Leningrad had a population estimated to be about 3.5 million people at the beginning of the siege. It was the northernmost large city in the world at the time (about as far north as Oslo and Helsinki and nearly as far north as Anchorage and Whitehorse).

Several hundred thousand Russians escaped before the city was completely cut off. An estimated one million Russians, the majority of whom were civilians, died during the siege. While some Russians were killed by bombing and artillery fire, most died from starvation. About 600,000 Germans, virtually all military, also died.

In Leningrad, dogs, cats and rats were eaten. When a Russian chemist discovered how to make wallpaper paste edible, that substance was mixed into the bread that was distributed to soldiers and civilians. Sawdust was also mixed into bread. Reports of cannibalism were confirmed many years later.

During the first winter, daily bread rations for civilians were 125 grams (about 4.5 ounces). It was an extraordinarily cold winter, with temperatures falling to -40 degrees Fahrenheit (and the same temperature in Celcius). Many dwellings suffered bombing damage and central heating was turned off in many residential buildings.

 

Cubs e-book ‘The Weight Lifted’ now available

15 December 2016

From The Chicago Tribune:

When the Chicago Tribune published Chapter One of Paul Sullivan’s “The Weight” on the Cubs’ Opening Day in April, there was no way to know how the season — or the e-book — would end.

The story turned out to be more dramatic than one could have imagined.

There are other books on the Cubs’ championship season, but none that were written and then published as the drama actually unfolded. Across 16 chapters, starting with the early expectations in spring training, documenting key series and personalities and challenges through the regular season, then building through the playoffs, series by series, “The Weight Lifted: How the Cubs Ended the Longest Drought in Sports History” is a remarkable chronicle of the Cubs magical 2016.

Link to the rest at The Chicago Tribune

Dunkirk

14 December 2016

PG will exercise a small privilege as a fan of military history by inserting the following trailer for a movie entitled, Dunkirk.

For those who are not familiar with this subject, here’s an overview from Wikipedia with bracketed summaries from PG:

The Battle of Dunkirk took place in Dunkirk, France, during the Second World War between the Allies and Nazi Germany. As part of the Battle of France on the Western Front, the Battle of Dunkirk was the defence and evacuation of British and Allied forces in Europe from 26 May – 4 June 1940.

. . . .

On 10 May 1940, Winston Churchill became Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. By 26 May, the BEF and the French 1st Army were bottled up in a corridor to the sea, about 60 mi (97 km) deep and 15–25 mi (24–40 km) wide.

. . . .

[T]he Germans confidently believed the Allied troops were doomed. American journalist William Shirer reported on 25 May, “German military circles here tonight put it flatly. They said the fate of the great Allied army bottled up in Flanders is sealed.” BEF commander Lord Gort agreed, writing to Anthony Eden, “I must not conceal from you that a great part of the BEF and its equipment will inevitably be lost in the best of circumstances”.

[For reasons that are still debated, Hitler ordered the German forces advancing toward Dunkirk to halt for three days.]

The three days thus gained gave a vital breathing space to the Royal Navy to arrange the evacuation of the British and Allied troops. About 338,000 men were rescued in about 11 days. Of these some 215,000 were British and 123,000 were French, of whom 102,250 escaped in British ships.

. . . .

The War Office made the decision to evacuate British forces on 25 May. In the nine days from 27 May–4 June, 338,226 men escaped, including 139,997 French, Polish, and Belgian troops, together with a small number of Dutch soldiers, aboard 861 vessels (of which 243 were sunk during the operation).

[German artillary shelled the Dunkirk beaches. The  Luftwaffe strafed and bombed the trapped troops and attacked the rescue ships. German submarines lurked in the English Channel and sank several ships.]

. . . .

[There were not nearly enough British military vessels to evacuate the huge number of troops trapped on Dunkirk’s beaches. Dunkirk’s surviving port infrastructure would permit only a few naval vessels to come close enough to shore to pick up troops. Almost every civilian ship and boat capable of crossing the English Channel was pressed into service within a very few days. The large majority of these vessels sailed with civilian captains and crews.]

Many of them were private vessels such as fishing boats and pleasure cruisers, but commercial vessels such as ferries also contributed to the force, including a number from as far away as the Isle of Man and Glasgow. These smaller vessels—guided by naval craft across the Channel from the Thames Estuary and from Dover—assisted in the official evacuation. Being able to move closer into the beachfront shallows than larger craft, the “little ships” acted as shuttles to and from the larger ships, lifting troops who were queuing in the water, many waiting shoulder-deep in water for hours. The term “Dunkirk Spirit” still refers to a popular belief in the solidarity of the British people in times of adversity.

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Publishers Take On Ad-Agency Roles With Branded Content

12 December 2016

From The Wall Street Journal:

A New York Times Co. staffer recently spent weeks digging into a technology company, visiting engineering departments and interviewing executives to ferret out the best story there was to be told about the firm.

It wasn’t for a hard-hitting exposé. Instead, the writer was working for T Brand Studio, the company’s in-house ad agency, to put together a report commissioned by the media publisher on how best to market itself in an ad campaign.

Publishers are pouring resources into such initiatives as they try to turn their niche “branded content” businesses into significant growth drivers. They are expanding into areas that traditionally have been the domain of advertising agencies—from doing research for companies to creating ads that run outside their own websites.

For traditional news outlets such as the Times, The Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and Time Inc., expanding in promising digital areas like sponsored content is vital. In many cases, print advertising is falling faster than digital-ad revenue is growing, and in the online world the dominance of ad giants Facebook Inc.and Alphabet Inc.’s Google is intensifying. A recent round of poor financial results in the newspaper industry underscored those pressures, forcing publishers to cut costs and lay off employees.

Branded-content revenue has been growing at a fast clip industrywide, though it still makes up a relatively small portion of companies’ overall revenue. Publishing executives acknowledge that building large, profitable branded-content businesses won’t be easy. The most compelling products—deeply reported, interactive ads that tell stories—can be labor intensive, and some require sophisticated video production. Also, these businesses compete with a plethora of digital media companies such as Vice Media and BuzzFeed that have placed branded content at the center of their business models.

Critics of branded content suggest that it blurs the traditional boundaries between advertising and editorial, and may risk confusing and alienating some readers.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire)

High on Hitler and Meth: Book Says Nazis Were Fueled by Drugs

12 December 2016

From The New York Times:

Given the sheer tonnage of books already devoted to the Nazis and Hitler, you might assume that everything interesting, terrible and bizarre is already known about one of history’s most notorious regimes and its genocidal leader. Then along comes Norman Ohler, a soft-spoken 46-year-old novelist from Berlin, who rummages through military archives and emerges with this startling fact: The Third Reich was on drugs.

All sorts of drugs, actually, and in stupefying quantities, as Mr. Ohler documents in “Blitzed: Drugs in Nazi Germany,” a best seller in Germany and Britain that will be published in the United States by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in April. He was in New York City last week and sat for an interview before giving a lecture to a salon in a loft in the East Village, near Cooper Union.

. . . .

Mr. Ohler fell back on his interest in sleuthing during the five years it took to research and write “Blitzed.” Through interviews and documents that hadn’t been carefully studied before, he unearthed new details about how soldiers of the Wehrmacht were regularly supplied with methamphetamine of a quality that would give Walter White, of “Breaking Bad,” pangs of envy. Millions of doses, packaged as pills, were gobbled up in battles throughout the war, part of an officially sanctioned factory-to-front campaign against fatigue.

As surely as hangover follows high, this pharmacological stratagem worked for a while — it was crucial to the turbocharged 1940 invasion and defeat of France — and then did not, most notably when the Nazis were mired in the Soviet Union. But the most vivid portrait of abuse and withdrawal in “Blitzed” is that of Hitler, who for years was regularly injected by his personal physician with powerful opiates, like Eukodal, a brand of oxycodone once praised by William S. Burroughs as “truly awful.” For a few undoubtedly euphoric months, Hitler was also getting swabs of high-grade cocaine, a sedation and stimulation combo that Mr. Ohler likens to a “classic speedball.”

. . . .

Red, white and blue tubes of pills, sold under the trade name Pervitin, caught the attention of a doctor at the Academy of Military Medicine in Berlin, who would oversee the logistics of ferrying millions of pills to troops [during World War I]. Hopped-up soldiers would sprint tirelessly through the Ardennes at the onset of war, an adrenalized performance that left Winston Churchill “dumbfounded,” as he wrote in his memoirs. A German general would later gloat that his men had stayed awake for 17 straight days.

“I think that’s an exaggeration,” Mr. Ohler said, “but meth was crucial to that campaign.”

Link to the rest at The New York Times

Not exactly about indie publishing in the 21st century, but PG is a frequent reader of history and 20th century military history is of particular interest to him.

On the rapaciousness of scientific publishers, and my refusal to be their slave

1 December 2016

From Why Evolution is True:

I’ve long complained about the bloated profits of commercial scientific publishers, which can be as high as 40%. That’s obscene if you realize that other companies which actually make a product make far less money, that the scientific publishers get that money by not only charging authors to publish there, but having their scientific papers refereed and improved by reviewers who are paid nothing. Those reviewers—and I’ve done plenty of gratis reviewing for journals like Nature and Current Biology, as well as for journals issued by less greedy publishers—are done out of a sense of “public service”. Profit-hungry journals like to play on our sense of duty and public service, all the while raking in huge profits by using scientists to do the journal’s job for free. And remember that these journals charge people for access to papers that are, by and large, funded by government grants—by the taxpayer. It’s reprehensible that the public who funds such research is denied access to the results of that research.  (Some funding organizations, however, allow journals to charge for access for only one year. But even that is too much.) Commercial publishing of taxpayer-funded research is a travesty unless the profits, beyond those needed to pay salaries and run the company, are plowed back into more science.

But young scientists, who need to make their reputations by publishing in well-known journals like Cell and Nature, have no choice, for their hiring, tenure, and promotion often depend on what journals accept their papers. Sadly, many of the “high quality” journals are put out by greedy publishers. And it’s not just young scientists, either: organizations that hand out grants often look at where you’ve published your papers before deciding whether to give you further funds.

. . . .

Their solution is to abandon these greedy publishers and publish under the model of those university and society presses that plow back profits into scientific initiatives. They also say that scientists and granting agencies need to abandon the use of journal titles as measures of scientific worth, a move I heartily approve.

. . . .

Finally, they argue that scientists should stop allowing themselves to be exploited by rapacious publishers:

What can we as individuals do to promote change? One obvious action that would help weaken the grip of the for-profit publishing industry on our community would be, whenever reasonably possible, to decline to provide our free labor. One of us (PW) for example, with very few exceptions that can be counted with the fingers on one hand, has not published in and not reviewed for any Elsevier journal for the last 13 years. What is most puzzling is a lack of more widespread anger in our communities regarding the degree of exploitation and abuse by for-profit publishing enterprises that we not only tolerate, but accept and support.  Rather, as Scott Aaronson points out later in his article, “[w]e support the enterprise by reviewing and by serving on editorial boards without compensation, regarding these duties as a moral obligation.

. . . .

Coincidentally, I was asked yesterday by one of the Nature journals to review a submission. I agreed, read the paper, and then noticed that the paper was tracked through the “Springer Nature Tracking System.” Springer? I wrote to the editor and asked if Nature was now affiliated with the rapacious Springer. I was told that “Springer Nature. . . formed last year through the merger of Macmillan’s Nature Publishing Group and Springer, both commercial publishers.”

With that, I decided enough was enough. I wasn’t going to work for free to enrich either Nature or especially Springer, which is a gouger. I wrote this response:

Given that Springer makes at least 30% profits, and it is using, through the journals, reviewers and authors as free (and exploited) labor to swell its coffers, I’m afraid I must refuse to do my review, even though I’ve read the paper twice. Nature should, in these circumstances, remunerate its authors and reviewers instead of greedily sucking up profits for Springer. Given that you’re asking all of us to do this for free, I must decline to work further for Naturewithout remuneration.  I have no doubt that you, [editor’s name redacted], and the other editors are doing your job because you care about science, and are trying your best to maintain the quality of our field; my decision is simply a refusal to work for a system that exploits scientists to make profits for a company.

I’d urge other scientists to avoid reviewing for Nature given its new affiliation, or at least to demand $400 per hour for reviewing, something that no journal will pay, of course.

Link to the rest at Why Evolution is True and thanks to G.P. for the tip.

The Tech-Savvy To-Do List: A Bullet Journal

6 November 2016

From The Wall Street Journal:

The solution for Post-it Notes lost under the desk and phone alerts silenced in meetings may be at hand.

People who have tried and given up countless online calendars and list-making apps are making the Bullet Journal—a way of organizing and writing lists in a plain old notebook—a hit. The journal helps organize everything from big work projects to the children’s activities in a notebook and appeals to people who use their cellphones for everything else in their lives.

Its devotees call it something between a diary, a wish list and a to-do list. It isn’t fancy; it isn’t technological, but that is the point. The act of writing something down, as opposed to interacting with a screen, helps people stay and feel organized.

“I was bouncing between apps,” says Kim Alvarez, a bullet journalist from San Diego. “Moving the things I had to do around. There was no accountability.”

. . . .

Bullet journalists, as they call themselves, say the journal helps them improve productivity, reduce stress and sleep better. It frees up mental space and simplifies life, they say. It was created by Brooklyn, N.Y.-based digital designer Ryder Carroll, 36. Four million people have watched his how-to videos on YouTube and on the Bullet Journal site. The Leuchtturm1917, the hardcover official notebook, is sold out until November.

“The Bullet journal requires effort. But the effort is critical because it is investment in itself,” says Mr. Carroll “It is a practice.”

. . . .

Tim Pychyl an associate professor of psychology at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, says studies have shown that students who take notes remember more of the lecture than students who type notes. The same principle applies to analog versus digital to-do lists. Writing things down requires the listener process the information.

. . . .

Moleskine, a Milan-based company that revived the traditional leather bound notebook in 1997, has seen a doubling in revenues over the last five years.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire)

What If the Newspaper Industry Made a Colossal Mistake?

19 October 2016

From Politico:

What if almost the entire newspaper industry got it wrong?

What if, in the mad dash two decades ago to repurpose and extend editorial content onto the Web, editors and publishers made a colossal business blunder that wasted hundreds of millions of dollars? What if the industry should have stuck with its strengths—the print editions where the vast majority of their readers still reside and where the overwhelming majority of advertising and subscription revenue come from—instead of chasing the online chimera?

That’s the contrarian conclusion I drew from a new paper written by H. Iris Chyi and Ori Tenenboim of the University of Texas and published this summer in Journalism Practice. Buttressed by copious mounds of data and a rigorous, sustained argument, the paper cracks open the watchworks of the newspaper industry to make a convincing case that the tech-heavy Web strategy pursued by most papers has been a bust. The key to the newspaper future might reside in its past and not in smartphones, iPads and VR. “Digital first,” the authors claim, has been a losing proposition for most newspapers.

These findings matter because conventional newspapers, for all their shortcomings, remain the best source of information about the workings of our government, of industry, and of the major institutions that dominate our lives. They still publish a disproportionate amount of the accountability journalism available, a function that’s not being fully replaced by online newcomers or the nonprofit entities that have popped up. If we give up the print newspaper for dead, accepting its demise without a fight, we stand to lose one of the vital bulwarks that protect and sustain our culture.

. . . .

For years, the standard view in the newspaper industry has been that print newspapers will eventually evolve into online editions and reconvene the mass audience newspapers enjoy there. But that’s not what’s happening. Readers continue to leave print newspapers, but they’re not migrating to the online editions.

From the paper: “[W]hile print readership is declining, newspaper readers did not drop print in favor of the same newspaper’s online edition. The identified performance gap between newspapers’ print and online products challenges the ‘digital first’ view about the future of newspapers.”

Chyi and Tenenboim don’t deny the obvious mass migration of news consumers to the Web, but they note that most readers go to news aggregators, like Yahoo News, Google News, CNN.com, MSN and other non-newspaper sites. In a 2012 Pew study, 26 percent of respondents cited Yahoo as a news source they used most often; 17 percent named Google, with 11 percent naming MSN.com. Only 5 percent of poll respondents named the New York Times as a top news destination; 3 percent the Wall Street Journal; 2 percent USA Today; and 2 percent the Washington Post.

Link to the rest at Politico and thanks to Dave for the tip.

Monumental Scholarly Dictionary of Slang Is Now Online

17 October 2016

From Mental Floss:

If you simply want to find slang, there are plenty of places to look online, but if you want a thoroughly researched, meticulously documented view of 600 years of English slang expressions, Jonathon Green’s Green’s Dictionary of Slang is what you need. Until now, getting a look at Green’s three volume masterpiece involved a trip to the library, or shelling out hundreds of dollars. This week, with the launching of Green’s Dictionary of Slang Online, it’s become a whole lot easier to dig into the fascinating, long history of English slang.

The site allows lookups of word definitions and etymologies for free, and, for a well-worth-it subscription fee, offers citations and more extensive search options.

Link to the rest at Mental Floss and thanks to Joshua for the tip.

mumbudget

2 October 2016

From The Oxford English Dictionary:

mumbudget, n., int., and adj.

. . . .

1. to play (at) mumbudget: to keep silent.

. . . .

1639 Deloney’s Gentile Craft: 2nd Pt. (rev. ed.) ii. sig. D, Harken hither three dayes hence, and you shall heare more, but in the meane space looke you play mum-budget, and speake not a word of this matter to any creature.

. . . .

C. adj.

Silent, mute; = mum adj. Obs.

. . . .

1622 J. Mabbe tr. M. Alemán Rogue i. 146, I was Mum-budget, and durst not open my lips to him..in that businesse.

Link to the rest at The Oxford English Dictionary

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