Jim Brown, former Cleveland Browns football player, activist, actor, and mixed martial arts commentator, has just passed away. RIP to a football legend. Calling him the greatest running back of all time is not particularly controversial, unlike other such claims. He rushed for more yards per game than anyone else at his position and did so in a low-offense era.
Betting on Obscure Sports
I’ve said multiple times that the depths to which sportsbooks scraped the bottom of the barrel in the spring of 2020 was darkly amusing and inspiring at the same time. The thing is, they were doing this before the crunch. And after. Maybe not to the extent of splashing Taiwanese women’s basketball on their front pages, but you still could and can find really weird sports. And the use of obscure sports is a glaring weak point for integrity.
So who actually bets on the Laotian 2nd Floorball League?
Well, from what I’ve gathered, there’s three main categories of bettors. Only one of these is beneficial to the sportsbook, and is probably the reason they keep doing it. None are what would be considered beneficial to society or even the sports betting ecosystem as a whole.
The most innocent group of people to bet on obscure markets consistently (as opposed to the occasional novelty bet that no one expects anything out of) are “degenerates”, the same gambling addicts who will just bet on whatever’s in front of their faces. If it’s the middle of the night and some soccer league halfway around the world is what’s on the screen, they’ll bet it. Everything from table tennis to bizarre half-rink hockey to totally legitimate Indian cricket. This was in fact the reason for those Eastern European ping pong leagues running around the clock and existing at all-it was to ensure that there was something on screen at all times, purely for the purposes of gambling.
Something that greases the skids for a huge and inevitable problem with gambling doesn’t seem like the best thing. But it’s sweet and virtuous compared to the other two.
Many of the sharp/plus EV [Expected value] bettors are these, pouncing on whatever mismatch they get. They have little to no handicapping or serious modeling ability (the stereotype is that they’re green lumberjacks who don’t even know the players). After all, obscure sports are the most vulnerable to bad/slow lines. Which of course leads to the cycle of them getting restricted/banned after the book finds out.
I find neither the sportsbooks themselves who blast ads about the road to riches yet restrict successful bettors nor the line munchkins (coming from a tabletop RPG term for players who crudely optimize for maximum power) who act like martyrs to genius instead of people who gamed the system to be very sympathetic. So something that amplifies this sludgy mess does not seem desirable.
The smallest, weakest, and most obscure sports are the most vulnerable to manipulation and fixes. So naturally either fixers or people aware of the fix will flock to bet on these crooked games. I don’t think I need to really explain why this is a bad thing.
On one hand, the sportsbooks can simply not list the Guinea-Bissau Ferret Legging Third Division, the regulators can forbid it, and the data providers (the biggest, most important, and least visible part of the whole ecosystem), can not provide information about them. On the other, it only takes one offshore data provider and an offshore book wanting to fill that niche to break the restrictions.
So yes, like a lot of sports betting issues, this is not completely solvable. I do think that forbidding bets on the lowest hanging fruit-minor league baseball and tennis or low-division college basketball to use an American example, would still be a wise and prudent thing to do.
Review: US Army Doctrine
US Army Doctrine: From The American Revolution to the War on Terror
In his study of published doctrine, Walter Kretchik embarks on the herculean task of reading multiple centuries worth of field-manualese. He looks at the very first to the then latest manuals (the book was published in 2011) and how they were applied in practice. The result is an excellent nonfiction study for field manual nerds like me.
The book is very readable and understandable. I would advise reading the actual manuals themselves if you wanted to know more (they’re all public domain by their very nature and the age of many of them), but as a starting point for both doctrine and warfare, this book is excellent. It’s expensive and niche, but it’s good in addition to being those two.
I’ve used the term “Cuban T-72s” to refer to a very interesting phenomenon in fiction, especially contemporary fiction. Which is to say, something that’s technically inaccurate but makes an incredible amount of intuitive sense. And it’s technically achievable as well. What is a Cuban T-72?
Well, despite being one of the premier Soviet clients, Cuba has never operated T-72 tanks. T-72s are, of course, a common Soviet export tank. So even though Cuba historically never moved beyond the T-62 despite being actively engaged in Angola, if a thriller novel or alternate timeline had them operating that autoloaded tank, I would let it slide.
So if the rest of the work is pretty good, I can let things like wrong calibers off the hook. Especially if there’s an understandable reason why the author would think that way. Note that this only applies to small things like that-someone like Ian Slater who constantly gets the easiest-to-check facts wrong is not a “Cuban T-72.”
Seleucian Special Forces APC
Stable Diffusion gave me a chance to make something I’ve long imagined: A truck-APC belonging to a Seleucian (one of my OPFOR countries) Motorized Special Forces unit. First, the picture itself.
There are many existing heavy-duty pickup conversions like this: An armored pickup with the bed replaced by a capsule that’s even more fortified.
(You get the idea)
Now for their organization: Seleucia’s large “Special Forces” components are motorized to varying degrees. The quotation marks are because few of them are what NATO would consider “special forces”, with many being simply conventional troops with better training and motivation than the other ragged masses of that country’s huge army. Still, Seleucian motorized SF have shown their capability.
A Seleucian motorized SOF battalion is similar to a light infantry one, only with armored personnel carriers. As the mere “transport” capacity is prioritized, motorized SOF often ride in older and/or cheaper vehicles-like armored pickup trucks. APCs frequently hide after dropping off their dismounts. A common defensive tactic for Seleucian commandos is to drive close to an ambush site, conduct the ambush on foot, then scramble back to their carrier and move to another one later on.
However, it is not uncommon for Seleucian motorized SOF to accompany heavy units of tanks and SPGs in conventional operations. Here they fight similarly to Stryker/BTR style infantry in faster wheeled APCs of other countries. In conventional defensive operations, motorized SOF have a somewhat unusual role as mobile antitank detachments. Thanks to their skill, mobility, and flexible organization, SOF battalions with large amounts of of anti-armor weapons can be used similarly to the tank destroyers of other nations.
The Saxon and BTR-152 are examples of the basic style of APCs frequently found in Seleucian motor SOF units. Tracked vehicles, mostly basic ones like M113s and MTLBs, are rarer but not unheard of, especially where the terrain suits them.
The Non-Russian SSRs and nuclear weapons
There is one argument, especially after the 2022 invasion, about Ukraine (and the other non-Russian ex-SSRs) and nuclear weapons. This goes: They gave up their nuclear weapons in exchange for largely meaningless and unenforceable diplomatic agreements, which was a mistake that Ukraine paid for and Kazakhstan might have.
Many informed nuclear commentators have pointed out that the launch codes/infrastructure were still in Russian hands, that Ukraine had no actual control, and that the ICBMs in particular were ill-positioned for deterring their former owners. This is all accurate, as is the staggering cost of making a usable nuclear program during a time of massive political and economic upheaval (Ukraine’s implosion in the 1990s made Russia’s look like a modest recession, and Kazakhstan had effectively no army of its own immediately after independence)
But there is another opposite fallacy, which is that the decision was more or less out of their hands. Because all the nuclear weapons were under Russian control, there was no real choice involved. This is also flawed. The nuclear weapons weren’t immediately usable, but to act like there was a Ward Of Russianism on them is wrong. Ukraine had extensive infrastructure and science on its territory (including a missile plant), while Kazakhstan’s uranium industry meant that it was already over the biggest hump for a usable bomb-the materials.
So it was not technically impossible for the non-Russian SSRs to maintain a nuclear weapons program. You can argue that it was politically and economically so, and probably correctly. But it was not a technical issue. The republics had agency, and they likely prevented a far earlier Russian invasion by relenting.
Stable Diffusion Portrait of Tacticute, 1800s Style
This weird Stable Diffusion picture was fun to make.
Basically, the prompt was something like “Currier and Ives style illustration of a woman in improvised metal armor”, followed by a lot of posing and inpainting. The result is this lady with a Union Civil War hat, a metal face shield, and an anachronistic weapon.
Review: The Angola Deception
The Angola Deception
Because I’m crazy, I decided to check out a book by an author whose past series I was less than fond of. So I read DC Alden’s The Angola Deception, a cheap thriller about a super-conspiracy that wants to kill the bulk of the world’s population through an engineered germ. I believe there are at least four Jon Land books I’ve read with this exact plot. Blaine McCracken probably stops one bio-conspiracy shadow government in the morning and one in the afternoon each day.
The difference between them is of course that Land writes about monster truck chases and Antarctica exploding, while Alden writes about how one of the worst things about the evil Muslim conquering state is that it’s too feminist. Guess which book is a goofy fun romp and which is an axe-grinding, plodding, mess.
It’s not exactly a difficult question. There is every single New World Order conspiracy played completely straight here, but there are no minotaur-men. On top of that, the ending of The Angola Deception manages to be both too open ended (setting up the later series) and wrapped up too quickly (dealing with the antagonists of that specific book) at the exact same time. How does it manage that? I’m a little awestruck at how it does, but it does.
Suffice to say I don’t recommend this book. I might keep reading the series because I’m crazy and want to see just how crazy it gets (the Invasion series got pretty out-there, but not intentionally). But I don’t recommend it to others.
C3: Nuclear Command, Control, Cooperation
Written by former Strategic Rocket Forces officer Valery Yarynich, 2003’s C3 is an in-depth look at Cold War (and beyond) nuclear war command systems and their hazards. Although having access to then-secret info in Soviet times, Yarynich was no Viktor Suvorov and did not sensationalize (in fact, he provided one of the first detailed and level-headed descriptions of the infamous Perimetr/Dead Hand system). The result is one of the best nonfiction books on nuclear war that I’ve read.
As it is written by a former Soviet officer, you do get waves and waves of charts and equations that attempt to quantify something relating to military technology. But you also get lots of clear, simple explanations that make a layperson able to understand this well. In terms of everything from organizational charts to what the “nuclear briefcase” even is to why scissors were found to be a weak link in the command chain (seriously), it’s incredibly illuminating.
If you have any interest in nuclear war or command systems whatsoever, I highly recommend this book. I’ll also just say that it’s an excellent research resource…
Weird Wargaming: The 185mm artillery
Using a ballistics calculator, I came up with a 185mm artillery piece with the following performance. Why that? Because few/no real guns have the caliber, and I wanted something between 152/155mm and 203mm. When not obtained via the calculator, results are extrapolated from the S-23, the closest real life equivalent, with some enhancements like faster loading and lighter weight to simulate better technology:
Maximum range: 27-41 km, depending on ammunition.
Rate of fire: 2 rounds/minute
Average shell weight: 70-75 kilograms
Approximate Mass: 13,700 kg
The artillery piece is usually self-propelled on a tracked mount, but towed variants do exist. It tends to serve as a corps/army level weapon whose primary goal (and largest shell portion) is counter-battery and other missions where range is more important than size, although it can do anything a big gun can. Advanced users have developed nuclear shells for it, and the usual conventional ammunition types (regular HE, cluster, etc…) have been made.