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Losses of the French Army during the 1812-1813 Russian Campaign

I’ve always been a sucker for maps, so it’s no surprise that a diagram in a recent issue of the Economist got my mind-juices flowing. It shows in graphic detail Napoleon’s disastrous campaign into Russia: how an initial army of over 400,000 men got whittled down to a mere 10,000 desperate men over the course of the savage winter of 1812. This map is regarded by Edward Tufte as “the best statistical graphic ever drawn”.

In looking for more details about this graphic I came across an article about it on the Strange Maps blog, and I was hooked immediately. Recent entries contain gems such as Papua New Guinea as linguistic superpower, a caricature of Europe in 1870, and a Blonde map of Europe.

Also, as an aside, Truce mentioned an Edward Tufte book “Envisioning Information” to me some while back, that she recommended I read. What with this map and the Hans Rosling presentation capturing my imagination so recently, I’ve decided to buy the book on Amazon today.

I discovered this web-comic on WordPress some time back and I have been following it eagerly. It tells the story of Ness, a young warrior with the Fianna who sets out on a mission of vengeance within Iron Age Ireland. It’s a fascinating story, very well told. I’m looking forward to more installments from Patrick Brown in the near future.

For many years I have not made any New Year resolutions. I’ve always felt that this time of the year was the worst time for changing my ways – something to do with the pitiable lack of sunlight in this part of the globe.

I made no explicit resolutions this year either. However, despite myself, I have changed a few things over the past weeks that might conceiveably improve my quality of life.

  • I have cut down considerably on fries, jambons, breakfast rolls and other heart-cloggers for breakfast in preference for granola bars and apples.
  • I have also cut down on snacking. I’m eating 3 meals a day and nothing in-between.
  • I have given up smoking. Not that I was ever much of a smoker, but I have given it up completely now and I feel no craving for the stuff whatsoever.
  • I have cut down greatly on caffeine. Strong coffees and teas were not going down well with me, so I’ve gone decaf.

I already feel a lot better. My stomach has settled down a lot and my body seems to be dealing better with stress. I also hope to do more exercise, particularly during the weekends.

Life is good.

My twins were in great form this morning. I had to deal with the drama of not allowing one of them to bring in his blankie into the playschool. Later he broke down in tears and then tried to do a runner from me, complaining that he didn’t have a dinky toy that the other guy had. Upon arriving at the playschool, I had to wrestle one of them to the ground in order to put on his slippers, while the other lad jumped onto my back. They grabbed onto my legs when I tried to leave, and I got a lick in the face (instead of a kiss) from one of them as I tried desperately to extract myself from their grasp.

Upon leaving the playschool, I looked at their teacher and said “I didn’t bother to send them to sleep last night – I just fed them large doses of sugar all night instead”.

She understood.

That’s how I feel after I have had a long walk in the mountains! I managed to get in a 10 km walk in the Knockmealdowns in Co. Waterford today in the pouring, freezing rain, and I feel simply terrific after it all. So what if I couldn’t see anything with the fog and the rain? So what if I return to work tomorrow? So what if it is still the middle of winter with lots of bad weather ahead of us in the next few days? After days like this I can take on anything.

(Unfortunately no nice photos to show – my camera finally gave up the ghost a few weeks ago after far too many knocks on hard surfaces. I’m getting a new one next week though, so stay tuned).

I got to see CBS Evening News last night. It featured a lot of coverage of the Iowa Caucus and the snowstorms on the US west coast. At the end of the program was a longish feature on a 7 year old boy who was about to climb Kilimanjaro. “If you put your mind to it, you can do anything” he said to us all. Aww bless.

No mention however of Kenya, and the huge struggle for democracy going on there at the moment. It’s been the number one news item for the rest of the world over the last few days, where a positive result to this crisis might issue in a new era in African politics. A negative result, on the other hand, could cause the biggest humanitarian crisis since Rwanda.

A little boy climbing Kilimanjaro was more newsworthy, apparently.

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January 2008
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