With the ongoing crisis and unrest in Ukraine, I decided to read Orlando Figes’ The Crimean War: A History. I’m glad that I picked this book to read because it offers some insight into the reasons of the current situation in Ukraine and the Crimea. Figes not only gives a narrative of the war, he puts in perspective by reviewing what caused the war and reviewed the impact it had on the participants, especially Russia and Great Britain. If, like me, you were not fully familiar with the Crimean War and the history of the region I would suggest reading The Crimean War: A History to get some perspective on the current problems in the Crimea.
“Two world wars have obscured the huge scale and enormous human cost of the Crimean War. Today it seems to us a relatively minor war; it is almost forgotten, like the plagues and gravestones in those churchyards.”
Indeed, the Crimean War is a forgotten war. It is glossed over in basic world history courses despite the impact that it would have on Europe. It shouldn’t be a forgotten war, it deserves to be remembered for the impact it had upon the relationships between the European powers, the geography of Europe, and for sowing the seeds of future conflict. As you read this book, you can see the roots of multiple wars including World War I as well as the current crisis in Ukraine and the Crimea. It isn’t something that just came about and has its roots in the 1850s and earlier. It defined how the European powers would interact in the future and it changed the maps in in Eastern Europe. It also changed populations as Muslim and Christian communities were forced out of their homes and areas repopulated by the other religion.
“This was the first ‘total war’, a nineteenth century version of the wars of our own age, involving civilians and humanitarian crises.”
Frequently, American students are taught that the US Civil War was the first “modern” war, but the Crimean War took place several years before our Civil War and made use of of technology and ideas that were also used in the Civil War. Figes illustrates how the warfare and the Industrial Age met in the Crimean War through the use of railroads, telegraphs, modern ideas of hygiene and medicine. He also shows how the war changed the military systems in Great Britain and Russia regarding the views on the common soldier and leadership of the aristocracies.
“But the origins of the Crimean War cannot be understood by studying only the motives of statesmen and diplomats. This was a war – the first war in history – to be brought about by the pressure of the press and by public opinion.”
Figes also illustrates how the telegraph, photography, and the war reporter combined to influence public opinion and how the opinion of the middle class in Great Britain in particular brought Britain into the war and influenced how the war was conducted. He also shows how the opinions of the pan-Slav movement in Russia had an effect on the actions of the Tsar and therefore Russian conduct in the buildup to the war and the post war years.
“To varying degrees , the major parties to the Crimean War – Russia, Turkey, France, and Great Britain – all called religion to the battlefield. Yet by the time the war began, its origins in the Holy Lands had been forgotten and subsumed by the European War against Russia.”
An interesting thread that Figes weaves throughout the book is religion and how religion helped bring the war about. He shows how the roots of the war were in the Levant and how the fractious relationship between the Muslims, Catholics, and Ottomans brought about unrest t that would fan the flames of war. For the Russians in particular it was seen as a holy war to protect Orthodox Christians from persecution by the Ottomans. He also explains how the fact that European Christian governments allied themselves with a Muslim government to fight another Christian European power (even though the other European powers didn’t really consider Russia ‘European’) had an effect on Russian thought and their relationship with the other European powers thereafter.
I had a hard time coming to a rating on The Crimean War: A History. It is a very good read on a subject that rarely receives attention. It is more than just a military history of the war, it is also a political and diplomatic history of the war. Figes goes beyond the war to explain its causes and its ramifications by explaining what happened in the pre-war and post-war years. I read the Kindle version and this is where my problem with the book comes in. The book covers a war that many don’t know about in a region of the world many aren’t familiar with. For this reason, there should have been maps in line with the text so that the reader could see the borders of the time and the geography of the battlefields. Instead, all of the maps (which are pretty good quality for a Kindle book) are grouped all together at the end of the book. It is hard to envision border changes and geographic disputes in an area where borders have changed a great deal over time without a map showing the borders of the period. It’s also difficult to build a mental image of a battlefield and the movement of troops over geography and terrain you’re not familiar with without a map. Those maps should have been in-line in the appropriate parts of the text rather than added at the end. I would have given the book four stars if that had been the case but because of the maps issue I’m only giving it three. I understand that in the print version this is not the case, so I fail to understand why they’ve done it with the Kindle version. If you plan on reading this book I would therefore strongly recommend the print version over the Kindle version.
I apologize if this review seems off kilter, disjointed, or sub-par in any fashion. It was written in a hospital waiting room as an attempt to burn time and occupy my mind while awaiting the outcome of a loved one’s surgery.
A couple of hours after the F1 race ended in China, the World Endurance Championship (WEC) season began at Silverstone in England. After watching the first 30 minutes of the race on the computer I went to Church for Easter Sunday then came back home and watched the remainder of the race by streaming the video to the TV via Chromecast (more about the video later). Built around some of my tweets during the race, here are my thoughts on the 2014 WEC 6 Hours of Silverstone.
Heck of a 3 way fight for the GTE lead but it’s almost time to head to church. Back later for the rest of the #6hSilverstone
Early on there was a very tight race for the lead in GTE Pro between the two Porsches and one of the AF Corse Ferraris. Just before I left for Church, the three were nose to tail and pushing very hard. When I got back home, the GTE race as well as the LMP1 race had spread out with the Toyotas and Porsches taking a firm grip on the LMP1 and GTE Pro leads. On the other hand, the LMP2 race was still a going concern between the KCMG and G-Drive cars; it would remain that way until it was split up by penalties.
Even though his career was winding down around the time I became interested in sports car racing, Derek Bell has always been one of my favorite sports car racers and it was good to hear him drop in to Radio Le Mans’commentary booth and talk about the control issues the factory LMP1 cars seemed to be having in the wet conditions and how they could be attributed to braking/harvesting and power application of the hybrid systems. It was certainly something to take into consideration given that the while the conditions were slick they weren’t really bad and some of the LMP1s were truly having a hard time staying on the track.
If both tubs are written off, it sounds like Audi could be behind the 8-ball going into Spa and maybe Le Mans.
The team having the most problem keeping their LMP1s on the track were Audi. By the halfway mark, they crashed both of their R18s out of the race with heavy damage. Both cars had to be retired due to tub damage and it was reported that both tubs were written off. It was further reported that Audi’s Brad Kettler said that it was the first time he could remember that an Audi prototype monocoque broke. This race also marked the first time since the 2011 Petit Le Mans that a two car Audi prototype team failed to finish a race. If both tubs are indeed written off, it could definitely put Audi behind going into the next race at Spa and possibly the 24 Hours of Le Mans by limiting their testing and developing time. It was indeed a very un-Audi like race for them; as an Audi fan I hope that they shake off today’s poor performance and come back stronger.
Right decision to stop this one, too much water to safely race. Running around behind the safety car for 30min would be senseless.
Late in the race it began to rain and with about 40 minutes left to race the officials decided to bring out the safety car. At first I didn’t agree with the decision but soon the bottom dropped out and there really was too much water on the track to race safely; the LMP cars in particular were leaving wakes in the standing water. With around 20 minutes to go, race control red flagged the race and called it a day. It was the right decision, there wasn’t much time left in the race and the weather and conditions clearly weren’t going to improve before the the race time was up. There was no sense in just parading around behind the safety car for the last 20 minutes.
Great day for Toyota – P1, P2 overall.; or Porsche – P3 overall, P1 & P2 in GTE Pro; and for Aston Martin – P3 in GTE Pro, P1 & P2 in GTE Am
It was a great day for Toyota; I’d go so far as to call it a dominating day for Toyota. Before Audi dropped out they were clearly faster than Audi and although Porsche got close to taking second a couple of times Toyota held on to first and second in LMP1 rather comfortably. Even though their low downforce configuration wasn’t optimal for the race (it was clearly slower in the wet conditions), Porsche still made the best of their LMP1 debut and took third place when Audi faltered. Porsche dominated in GTE Pro, taking first and second decisively. While one car dropped out in LMP1, I suspect they were still happy with their performance. Aston Martin had a pretty good day as well, eventually taking third in GTE Pro from AF Corse’s Ferrari and comfortably taking first and second in GTE-Am. They had to work at it in GTE Pro, but they were clearly the cars to beat in GTE-Am.
The WEC is not shown on TV here in the United States, but it is streamed live on the WEC’s website with commentary from Radio Le Mans. During previous seasons, the streaming video was live but for this season they decided to put it behind a pay wall; it costs 19.99 Euros ($27.62 at the time I paid for it) for the season. If you are a die hard sports car/endurance racing fan it isn’t a bad price, but with the series still growing I would have thought they would have kept it free for a few more years, making it easier to bring in new fans. When it was free, I refrained from complaining about streaming issues but now that I’m a paying customer I expect more. During qualifying, the audio levels weren’t set properly for a majority of the coverage; you could barely hear the commentary because the ambient track noise was set too high. That problem was eventually fixed but during the race (especially around 2-3 hours in) I experienced a lot of buffering issues; that problem went away as well and the stream behaved for the rest of the race. When it was free it wouldn’t have been as much of an issue, but if I’m going to pay for it, the stream needs to be better quality. I hope they’ve got all of the issues sorted out prior to Spa.
The race provided a wonderful morning and early afternoon of motor sports enjoyment and was a good start to the World Endurance Championship season. Toyota, Porsche, and Aston Martin have set the bar for the rest of the season and it will be fun to see how the rest of the teams and manufacturers respond going in to the 24 Hours of Le Mans and before that the 6 Hours of Spa. The track marshals and fans at Silverstone today deserve a special mention. The weather was cold and wet but the marshals did an outstanding job in trying conditions and the spectators hung around in great numbers to cheer on the racers.
I can’t wait for the rest of the WEC season!
It’s been awhile since I wrote a post about a race, so here goes… Here are my thoughts on this morning’s 2014 F1 Grand Prix of China based on tweets I posted during the race.
Brilliant weekend for Hamilton; pole by a mile and a dominant drive for the win. Alonso was also impressive, pulling the Ferrari to P3
It wasn’t a great race but it was highlighted by a brilliant performance from Lewis Hamilton who dominated not just the race but qualifying as well, far outperforming the rest of the field in the wet on Saturday and the dry on Sunday. Mercedes has crafted an awesome weapon and Hamilton is wielding it skillfully. Alonso continues to show his quality at Ferrari by taking a car his teammate is unable to bring into the top five and finishing in the top three with it. In my opinion Alonso is the best racer in F1 right now but he just doesn’t have the weapon that Hamilton has to prove it with.
If you’re Alonso, Bottas, Massa & Rosberg you’ve got to be wondering about the integrity of your front suspensions/steering after the start.
There were two incidents of substantial contact on the race start between Bottas and Rosberg and Alonso and Massa. Both were heavy enough that they could have (and should have!) caused front suspension damage to the cars. None of the contact was intentional or had to do with careless driving, it just boiled down to hard racing on the start. The contact had to be something that each of the drivers and teams kept in the back of the their minds throughout the race but it never seemed to cause a problem for any of the four.
No telemetry = tremendous disadvantage in this era of racing.
Apparently straight from the start, Rosberg’s car had no telemetry. As a result the team had no idea what was going on with the car and particularly for fuel consumption had to get everything from Rosberg over the radio. This seemly was an irritant to Rosberg (as he made clear over the radio) but it didn’t seem to be a bother for him to reach down and adjust a knob on the steering wheel in the middle of his pass on Alonso for P2! He and the team made the best of the situation and still finished P2. In this era of racing where the F1 engineers in the pit can see every little thing that is going on in the car from tire pressures to engine data it put Rosberg at a significant disadvantage compared to the rest of the field. As a radio geek, I’d be interested to know the cause of the failure was; was it on the RF side, was it computer hardware, or did someone forget to switch something on (never discount human error, especially when it comes to data modes)?
Oh, Williams… There’s Massa’s race gone.
On Massa’s first pit stop, one of the rear wheel nuts apparently didn’t come off easily and it seemed like the team didn’t handle it well. The pit stop ended up lasting over 40 seconds and dropped Massa from the top ten all the way back to last place. It was a shame because Massa had a genuine chance at a top five finish today. Williams has long been my favorite F1 team but they’ve stepped it up on the mechanical side this year, now they must also step it up on the pit work.
Chickens coming home to roost for Red Bull from allowing Vettel to disobey team orders in the Vettel/Webber era.
It was abundantly clear that Ricciardo was faster than Vettel today and when Ricciardo caught Vettel the team ordered Vettel to let him by. After a short discussion in which it was perfectly clear what the Red Bull pit wall wanted him to do, his response was “Tough luck.” By failing to discipline or sanction Vettel in previous years when he refused to abide by team rules they’ve emboldened him to continue to disobey them. Whether you like them or not (and let me make it clear that I do not) team orders are part of F1 and the drivers should obey them. By failing to make it clear to Vettel who runs the team they’ve allowed him to believe that he does.
Once again, Vettel shows his petulance and Ricciardo seems composed and mature taking the fight to his team leader.
Vettel’s petulance – see above. Before this season I really didn’t have an opinion on Daniel Ricciardo but beginning with this season’s first race in Australia I’ve been extraordinarily impressed with him. Compared to his four times world champion and vastly more experienced teammate, Ricciardo has been more mature and composed. When you see him out of the car, he always has a huge smile on his face and you can tell that he’s genuinely having fun and he’s happy to be in one of the best seats in the sport. Even when he lost a podium at Australia due to mistake by the pitwall he kept his composure, more than could be said for Vettel this season. As for Vettel, it is clear that he has so far not been able to come to grips with and adapt to the new regulations. Over his four world championships he has always had the best car on the grid and the true test of a racer is what he does when he doesn’t have the best equipment. I’d say that so far it is clear that he can’t do with lesser equipment what a racer like Alonso can.
After missing the great race that I understand Hamilton and Rosberg put on at Bahrain, I’m glad I had the opportunity to watch this weekend’s race from China. There was Hamilton’s performance in both qualifying and the race, at times there was good racing throughout the field, and there is the continued “emperor’s clothes” performances from Vettel (I have to say I’m enjoying watching both he and Red Bull get their comeuppance). Anyway, it’s almost time for the WEC 6 Hours of Silverstone and Easter morning church. So far it has been a nice beginning to Easter Sunday!
The Coastal Amateur Radio Society will be activating the Tybee Island Lighthouse (USA 864) on Monday, 21 April 2014 as part of the Amateur Radio Lighthouse Society‘s 2014 Spring Lites QSO Party. Operations should begin around 0900 local/1300 UTC and they will operate throughout the day as W4LHS on 40, 20, 15, and 10 Meters as band conditions allow. The stations will be temporary ones on the lighthouse grounds utilizing a variety of radios and antennas including a hex beam, SteppIR vertical, and wire antennas. This operation was originally planned for Saturday, 19 April 2014 but “Orange Crush” is also scheduled for that weekend so the club took the decision to make other plans because it would be difficult for both operators and visitors to get on and off the island. It would be akin to trying to operate a special event station in downtown Savannah on St. Patrick’s Day! Other options to operate on the weekend, including operating from the St. Simons Island Lighthouse, were explored but in the end operating on Monday was the best option as the QSO Party lasts through Tuesday, 22 April 2014.
The Tybee Island Lighthouse is one of seven existing United States colonial-era lighthouses, surviving today in a modified form. Located on the north end of Tybee Island by the entrance to the Savannah River, it was first built in 1736 at the order of General James Oglethorpe. The lighthouse was destroyed and rebuilt a number of times due to weather and erosion and was eventually burned and the lens removed by Confederate forces when they abandoned it during the Civil War and retreated to Fort Pulaski (which you pass on the way out to Tybee Island on US 80) in 1862. After the Civil War, the was rebuilt and modified a number of times over the years. In 1999, a major restoration project was begun and the Tybee Island Historical Society took possession of the lighthouse in 2002. It continues to be an active navigational aid to this day.
If you’re able, feel free to drop by and visit the station and the lighthouse. The Tybee Island Lighthouse truly is an area landmark, you’ll easily see it as you approach and drive onto Tybee Island. You’ll also pass by Fort Pulaski and the Cockspur Island lighthouse on your way out. This is an excellent opportunity to draw attention to Tybee Island, the Lighthouse, and the Savannah area to the rest of the country and the world through amateur radio. It’s also a great way to promote the rich maritime history of the Tybee Island and Savannah area.
The lighthouse is about a 20 minute drive from the intersection of Victory Drive and Skidaway Road in Savannah. Take Victory Drive (which is also US 80) east from Skidaway through Thunderbolt and past Whitemarsh Island to Tybee Island. From US 80 on Tybee Island turn north onto Polk St, then turn east on Fort Avenue, continue onto Taylor St, then turn south on Meddin Drive and you’ll see the lighthouse.
I have missed the opening three rounds of the Tudor United Sports Car Championship due to a combination of my work schedule and their television coverage schedule. Over the last week, I have managed to somewhat catch up by watching the 12 Hours of Sebring via TUSC’s YouTube channel. Common sense dictates I should probably watch some more races before writing this post but I haven’t written any Motor Sport related posts yet this season and I do want to post a few observations on the new IMSA/TUSC series.
The 12 Hours of Sebring was a contradiction. To be frank, dismal driving standards were displayed throughout the race and there was very poor decision making on the part of both gentleman and professional drivers. At the same time, there was also some very good racing during the little green flag time there seemed to be. The problem was that just about every time the race began to get interesting someone did something stupid to cause a yellow flag and those yellow flag periods lasted entirely too long. If it broke up the rhythm of the race for the fans I can’t imagine the effect it had on the drivers and teams. That is the basis for one of my major observations of the season so far, my other has to do with Prototype class balance of performance. At Sebring, IMSA appeared to have that balance of performance very close.
The series cannot continue to have yellow flag periods consuming half of the race time like it did at Sebring. You can’t hold the attention of new or prospective fans losing that much racing time and you are going to lose current fans the same way. It was tedious and at times you could tell that even the TV crew (more on them to come) thought it was getting tedious. Consider what would result if you lost half of the race time in a 2 hour 45 minute race. While IMSA has said they are going to make more use of quick yellows as opposed to the normal yellows in which they pit different classes on different laps, I hope they still consider the use local yellows to clear some incidents of minor debris or easily removed stalled cars.
The balance of performance appeared to be quite close at Sebring as opposed to being well off at Daytona. I don’t know that IMSA will be able to ever equalize the P2s and DPs at Daytona because of the long amounts of time spent on the banking; the higher horsepower DPs just have too much advantage there. At Sebring, however, the ESM P2s were both very competitive and led a considerable number of laps while the Oak Racing Morgan was also competitive. All things equal though, I think with the DPs having more “grunt” they have an easier time getting through traffic than the P2s which are more dependent upon momentum than power. This may not be a popular opinion, but I also think that there are some stronger engineering squads on the DP side of things than there are on the P2 side. For those reasons, combined with sheer numbers, I think we’ll see more DPs winning races than P2s. That said, we cannot count out the P2s; if it wasn’t for the late yellow at Sebring that fell to the 01 Ganassi DP’s advantage, the 1 ESM P2 had a very good chance of winning the race.
Here’s another unpopular opinion: I was pleasantly surprised with how much improvement that IMSA has made with the DPs while watching Sebring. I never was a big fan of the DPs in Grand Am and while I’m still not a fan of how they look I’ve got to admit with the changes IMSA has made to them, they’re performing at a higher level and maintaining the close competition that made them popular with Grand Am. I think the key to the future is fans getting past the DP/P2 rivalry and just enjoying good racing whether a DP car or P2 car is leading or winning. Just as IndyCar fans have had to quit taking ChampCar and IRL sides, it’s time for us as fans to quit taking ALMS or Grand Am sides and take the TUSC side. Quit living in the past and enjoy the present and the future.
Another observation has to do with officiating, which at Daytona and Sebring were less than optimal (to be kind). Making wrong calls that have to be corrected post race and making wrong calls that directly affect the outcome of a race without evening making an attempt to correct them are unacceptable. After Sebring, changes were announced but I think that IMSA must take another step. Just as there are measures in other professional sports to discipline officials that make mistakes, IMSA must do the same. Furthermore, in order to maintain the confidence and respect of the participants and fans those disciplinary measures must be announced just as disciplinary actions against drivers and teams are announced.
While I didn’t watch, nor have I seen, any of the 24 Hours of Daytona coverage, I did listen to some of MRN’s coverage via SiriusXM. It was abysmal. There seemed to be no effort on the part of the NASCAR-centric crew to learn or adapt to calling Sports Car racing. I understand that they added Greg Creamer and Ryan Eversley to the Sebring coverage and that was an excellent call. Creamer has long experience with sports cars, knows the sports car community, and knows his business. Eversley is new at the job but anyone who followed the Dempsey Racing twitter account that he operated during last year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans knows what he is capable of. While watching the 12 Hours of Sebring I really enjoyed the Fox Sports TV combination of Brian Till, Tommy Kendall, and Justin Bell (not that the combo of Varsha, Fish, and Schroeder were bad). Justin Bell’s frank, to the point commentary was particularly welcome. It’s always good to hear an analyst that doesn’t have a problem calling it as he sees it. It seems that while coverage may have stumbled at the beginning of the season (and there are still problems with lack of coverage and channel availability) things seem to be improving.
Another concern has to be the exit of the Level 5 and Muscle Milk teams from TUSC (and possibly that of Turner) by the third race of the season; I’m not ready to consider it a crisis or an exodus yet. I think Level 5’s exit had more to do with just dissatisfaction with the series and I have to wonder if Muscle Milk just bit off too much after getting a very late start with their Oreca Nissan. I will say that I’m very disappointed that Muscle Milk pulled out of the series; I’ll definitely miss them and I hope that they turn up somewhere in the near future.
Overall, I’m keeping a positive outlook for IMSA and TUSC. Although I haven’t had a chance to watch it yet, I have the Long Beach race on DVR at home and I’ll be catching up on it this Friday or Saturday. From what I’ve heard they didn’t have any major officiating issues and the racing sounded like it was pretty good (at least in GTLM, I haven’t seen that much about the Prototype class). I’m disappointed in a lot of the negative comments and the jumping to conclusions I see in the comments sections on some websites. We as fans need to maintain an even keel and not let our frustrations get the best of us. Yes, there have been problems this season but we still need to support the series and try to bring new fans to it. Look at how long it has taken for IndyCar to get solidly on its feet since their unification; it was a long rough road and they’re still working on it. We can’t expect IMSA and TUSC to get everything right in one season much less one race. This is a transitional season and we need to remember that. If things aren’t showing some sort of improvement by the end of the season then it will time to get worried, but for now let’s keep on giving them a chance.