The Warrior-Scout Spirit

Capt Reginald Walter Jones, MC, MM
Capt Reginald Walter Jones, MC, MM a deadly rifle shot

Today is an appropriate day to remember my grandfather, Capt. Reginald Walter Jones, MC, MM of the 14th Battalion of the 1st AIF. He was a decorated and highly effective Scout-Sniper and Company Commander in World War I.

He had a good war, meaning he survived, while his two brothers Cpl. Llewellyn Rowland Jones, MM (K.I.A. France. 18th September 1918) and Sgt. Raymond Leslie Jones (K.I.A. France. 11 April 1917) did not return.

In the case of Ray, 128 or more men of the 14th were K.I.A. on that day alone, not to mention the next. They were very ugly battles in those days. He was killed along with a total of 2260 men from the 4th Brigade in the infamous Battle of Bullecourt:

“So ended the Battle of Bullecourt, the most disastrous, the most bloody, yet perhaps the most glorious day in the history of the 4th Brigade.”
History of the 14th Battalion, AIF, by Newton Wanliss, 1929

People cannot relate to such things now, it seems incredible.

Nor do they remember Jones of the 14th, because the role of a Scout-Sniper is not well understood outside of the theater of operations.

If you want to know what a Scout-Sniper actually does, think of the character of SFC Norm “Hoot” Gibson in the movie Black Hawk Down.

That movie character was in fact based on an amalgam of real-life people: SFC John Macejunas, SFC Norm Hooten and SFC Matthew Rierson and their exemplary conduct at the Battle of Mogadishu.

That is what Jones and Jacka did during World War I, in and around the trenches and No Mans Land of the Dardenelles, Turkey and the Fields of Messines, France. There were no special forces or commando units then.

Certain men just volunteered themselves for the tricky jobs and got them done: Capts. Jones and Jacka at Messines. Jacka in the Dardenelles for a Victoria Cross.

Jones, Jacka and Wanliss
Jones, Jacka and Wanliss

Although Jones enlisted as a Private, the Army soon figured out that he was a deadly rifle shot and promoted him. As in any war, the best shooters become snipers. With that, naturally goes the role of scout. This involves missions to probe the enemy and determine threats, and to find weaknesses in their defenses.

Such work requires men who are very resourceful, quick-witted, and fearless under fire. Their role requires high powers of observation and intuitive perception. This means they often work alone. A good scout may stake his own life on his own intuition and abilities, but will not risk the life of others without cause.

That is why scout-snipers often appear to be outsiders. They make a wall. Reg did that.

However, that does not make them poor leaders of men. On the contrary, Capt. Jones led companies in France in action alongside those led by his good mate Jacka. Jones of the 14th was by then a highly regarded combat veteran, and counted as one of the “three or four best men”, in the AIF, in the company of that deservedly famous soldier Capt. Albert Jacka, VC MC and Bar, according to the official War History.

Jones was effective in command, and as a soldier, because he was single-minded and had a simple view on leadership by example.

Strategy according to Jones:

Form a Shooting Gallery and stock it with the finest riflemen in the Battalion.

Tactics according to Jones:

Shoot every man who pops up his head, stone cold dead.

Risky Business - Gun Shot Wound to Shoulder
Risky Business – Gun Shot Wound to shoulder from opposing sniper

He was never a cruel man, but he knew the enemy sniper was a clear and present threat to him and his men. It is the threat, and not the man, that must be eliminated.

It was that simple.

The sniper's curse: bullet fragment in the eye from opposing sniper ricochet.
The sniper’s curse: bullet fragment in the eye from opposing sniper ricochet.

As a sniper, he accounted for over fifty Turkish soldiers and snipers in the Dardanelles. He was shot several times himself by enemy snipers and lost many mates, shot right beside him. They would work in teams of two with periscope and often one got hit.

In later life, he would recount such tales of war. It was never with pride at having taken the fathers and sons of many families. He was a deeply religious man who lost many friends and both his brothers in the Great War. However, he did consider that he had shot well. He had shot across ravines, through brushes, and dust and swirling smoke at ranges of up to a mile in harsh and deadly conditions. That was the only thing he really took pride in. He did his duty, shot well and survived.

Understandably, while he had a good war, he had a difficult peace.

Even today, the Special Forces and other highly demanding roles for the professional soldier are not well regarded. Society does not rightly understand what it demands of young men and women when we send them off to war.

This is very unfair to such men and women. They do their duty for their country at great personal physical and psychological risk. We demand a Titanium Psyche of them and we really should respect them for taking on such a burden.

Reg certainly had a powerful psychic presence. That I recall, but we did not interact much when I was a child. He passed away before I was five.

In truth, he scared the Living Daylights out of me.

However, as any small boy, I did admire his 0.303 Lee-Enfield rifle. That was some kind of weapon, designed for a shooting war with two opposing galleries and a mountain of mud and guts in between. That 0.303 is what got Capt. Jones through the war.

That, and a very cool head for risky situations.

The official history describes Jones as an “aggressive” soldier, however he had a clean war record, all 174 pages of it. Occasionally, he would get into minor skirmishes with superiors over this and that, but nothing serious. In our family, the story was told that he was busted for jumping ship in Italy to go and see Rome, because he did not want to: “Come this far and miss it.” However, I could find no mention of that in the war record. In any case, if he was busted, he was very soon promoted once more.

The AIF so respected Capt. Jones that when he asked for something he got it. He had been shot up a lot already, and then his brother Ray was killed in action at the very bloody Battle of Bullecourt. His mother and sister became sick with grief and worry. At his request, the AIF gladly sent him back to Melbourne for two months with their blessing. Then he went straight back to the front in France.

Special leave granted to return home and comfort his family.
Special leave granted to return home and comfort his family.

People say the Word War I command was harsh.

The Australian Command were tough yes, but in the AIF they respected good men.

Jones never shirked a battle, but was often in hospital. On one occasion, he manged to blow his own thumb off when probing a captured German Flare Thrower. The official War Record makes very clear this was an accident and was no fault of Jones himself. People today would not understand what that means. In those days, if you shirked a battle through intentional self-wounding, the command could, in their rights, have you Shot as a Deserter. That’s War. No Shirkers. No running from what needs doing.

Reg blows his thumb off by accident.
Oops! Reg blows his thumb off by accident.

The highlight for the military career of Capt. Reginald Walter Jones was his award of the Military Cross for a daring raid in France. He covered 800 yards of open ground under heavy machine gun and sniper fire to disable and capture a German gun emplacement. He captured three 77mm German guns and a large cache of ammunition. The result was an advance of the whole line by 800 yards at one stroke.

Commendation for Military Cross: This operation resulted in an advance of 800 yards into hostile territory, he displayed the greatest tactical skill and judgment throughout.
Commendation for Military Cross: This operation resulted in an advance of 800 yards into hostile territory, he displayed the greatest tactical skill and judgment throughout.

Not a Bad Day Out in France for a Bloke from St Kilda!

True to form, Reg got himself shot, just enough, by accident, and not too much: through the cheek and neck. That was an MC. The wily fellow was sharp enough not to get himself killed and risk a posthumous VC.

The real prize and commendation was to: advance the line and survive.

Today, of all days, I am proud to remember my grandfather: Capt. Reginald Walter Jones, MC, MM (returned). I am especially proud of the last citation: returned.

I have to say, I was not always proud though. Sometimes, the whole family history really creeped me out. When I was a child, I would say to the other children in the playground:

My Grandfather, Reg, shot fifty Turkish snipers at the Dardenelles!

Then the other kids would not play with me, so I never ever spoke of it again.

However, now I am older, and wiser. The veteran of my own battles, I say:

My Grandfather, Reg, sniped for The King so he could go hunt Grouse!

That is the proper division of labor in any society:

Those who can shoot, Snipe.

Those who can’t shoot, hunt Grouse.

I really hope my grandfather can hear that now.

It would bring a smile to his sometimes strained face.

He was a good man: “Jones of the 14th”, and I am proud to be his grandson.

On ANZAC day, my thoughts go out to all who have fought, loved and lost in a War.

Takin’ Care o’ Business

Book of the Samurai
Hagekure: The Book of the Samurai

“Even if it seems certain that you will lose, retaliate. Neither wisdom nor technique has a place in this. A real man does not think of victory or defeat. He plunges recklessly towards an irrational death. By doing this, you will awaken from your dreams.”

HAGAKURE, Yamamoto Tsunetomo (1659-1719)

In the outrageous 1974 film Network, an important new worldview was exposed, perhaps even more important and socially penetrating for this exact social moment than the tired and cliched stereotypes of Coppola’s The Godfather. A worldview explained in the marvelous dialogue between the supposedly radical Mr Beale and the Chairman:

The famous Corporate Cosmology scene.

This worldview has much in common with the Many-Worlds philosophy of Hugh Everett III, as well as to the possible future of the “Academy”. What is a University when they are now offering their lecturing material for free through the internet?

It seems that the ponderous Medieval Scholastic academic profile, so celebrated through the ceremony, fancy hats, robes and all, is now officially a dinosaur. The meteorite has struck! It is a dying relic of the past in a world where computing machines become more and more intelligent and decision making is awarded and divided between both man and machine alike. They must now form a team and get along with one another.

(Ed. Bravo, my good Mongol! We are now on a journey to the Post-Medieval World).

Surprisingly enough, both Marx and Popper always considered the traditional professional Guilds as enemies of an open society. We may think of this as still being true apart from any Messianic attitudes towards history.

(Ed. Guilds are anti-competitive. The Monastic Academy is the Biggest Guild of all. IMHO.)

There is evidence that future society will be a far more Open Society than ever. Consider the Mars One mission now in preparation. This is a truly private mission that garnered global private funding along with support from the Nobel Laureate Gerard T’Hooft.

The Mars One mission and mission philosophy is Radical.

It proposes to start Mars colonization inside ten years but at a price of a one-way ticket! After landing, there will be no turning back. You are Martian for good or ill!

(Ed. A classic Point of No Return strategy. Crash through or Crash. Shatter the Gloom Barrier, or Die Trying! Very Hagakure! No Frequent Flyer points on offer.)

From Mars One company data, it seems that there are already about 40,000 or so applications for an apparent suicide mission. Compare this with the very famous Shackleton Advertisement for the Voyage of the Endurance:


(Ed. Booyah! Men are not born Mice: they are only made so by weak leadership. Leave it to the Marines to get the job done! Lock and Load: Now ship those battle wagons out!).

Having heard this, I started thinking what would a future Martian educational system be like, as there will be families. It is known from evolutionary biology that isolation helps drive diversity. This is one of the reasons, for example, that animals in Australia seem to be so unique and strange. They spent millions of years in isolation from the other continents .

(Ed. Music to my furry little Aussie marsupial ears! We evolved Cold Beer you can Drink.)

I am really eager to see the University of Wild Marslands and how it will function. Pioneers are more practical as they have to resolve any number of new and unexpected situations for survival. As in the Yester-Years of American Colonization, old habits inspired by the European Aristocracy and Papal Authority gradually gave their place to new, more libertarian forms of social arrangement. This is the famous Frontiersman Spirit.

This time though, there will also be a new companion in the form of huge A.I. systems that will be created in the next decades and apparently they will also follow the human path to Mars and beyond in a purely symbiotic form.

(Ed. Never send a Fleshbot to do a Droid’s work in the Photosphere.)

An key element in Evolutionary Computing Strategies is the use of simultaneous alternative viewpoints. Academic stubbornness and conservatism will not help in an unknown terrain with lots of possible challenges along the way.

(Ed. Agree. Traditional Academia is now Combat Ineffective).

In order to cultivate this attitude, it seems imperative to abandon the follower’s stance of a dogmatic truth and develop an inner dialectic where one remains calm in the face of paradoxical and conflicting data.

(Ed. In Confucian China, the classical text the I Ching was used to mold minds prepared for command to accept the reality of change and opposites. This is vital under the Fog of War. Certainty is Certain Death. The Japanese Samurai tradition trained all warriors to be less certain of their logic. They must cultivate Intuitive Perception also, to maintain the supple mind. This is the skill of the Scouting-Warrior, the soul of all true Ninja.)

People that are treated from their childhood to have no clear cut and sharp distinction between opposites like “black” and “white” are perhaps a bit better at doing so.

Some teachings of Soft Martial Arts suggest the absolute complementarity of all movement. This is the art of leaving any mistakes to the opponent, even to eliminate the concept of opponency itself! In Zen philosophy, there is no opponent only a shared dynamic which creates an outcome.

A recent example of this Attitudinal Rigidity problem came from an interesting paper titled

Full characterisation of polarization states of light via direct measurement

which has been published in the eminent science journal Nature.  

But ain’t that supposed to be impossible? Would not a full knowledge of the quantum state come into conflict with Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle and undermine the whole Copenhagen School of Physics viewpoint?

(Ed. I have stated my own views on this already.)

The authors of course claim a certain use of strong and weak measurement that avoid collapsing the wave-function and so leave the system unperturbed.

But wait a minute! Ain’t that even more preposterous? And what do these crazy “weak” measurements really mean after all? I read a while ago in another blog about these Weakers being apostates of the worst kind. An unwelcome lot during the Recitation of Divine Liturgy. I think the blog was that of a sturdy Wavewatching Buccaneering Sailor from that shadowy harbor, down Treasure Island way!

But then, who cares any more? Computers of the future will still spit their own nice results, new incomprehensible theories will rise and fall, and most of all new territories will still be there to conquer on Mars or elsewhere.

Who will remember some old academic that had a vision problem a century from now?

Most of all, will it become possible to build a new kind of science closer to the Chairman’s vision in the Network movie? A nice, ecumenical company where everyone will hold a share of stock?

That I think would be worth pondering.

Rhyme and Revolution

Where to now? People suppose that society gravitates to order.

I do not think that the natural state is chaos. Mankind greatly prefers order. However, the creation of a Fresh Order is always difficult, particularly in the World of Ideas.

The Greeks were right. Man is a Teleological Creature, animated and propelled by spirit.

Here, I follow Carver Mead. His thoughts on physics energize me. They make sense.

His recent outing at an electrical engineering conference impressed me.

The essential point that he made is this:

Science Ultimately serves Humanity.

This goes double for the Engineer. If your ideas help no-one then why have them? You must develop and simplify your ideas to move us all forward.

Carver Mead has spoken of the Crisis in Physics. This once noble subject, which has served as the bedrock of Engineering, now seems to be a Rotting Corpse.

The people in it seem to have forgotten that Physics is useful, even if it is old physics. I would go further, the Old Physics is the most venerated and useful of the lot.

What do we see instead?

An endless obsession among Academic Physicists for: New Physics.

This is an ego-maniacal exercise on the part of the community to “Wipe the Slate Clean” and Enter the History Books. Hence the recent comment of Mead:

A Bunch of Big Egos are Strangling Science

I think he is damn right. On target, to perfection.

The essential problem is that Physics cannot change quickly. Nature does not change her laws. Why pretend that New Physics is Always Just Around the Corner?

This is lunacy. It is also damaging to young careers. Expectations are too high.

Classical Physics evolved continuously for some 300 or more years after Newton. The laws did not change but the depth of our understanding of them did.

That is the Clarion Call of Mead:

For God’s Sake People: Let us make the Present Quantum Theory Make Some Sense.

Consider this. The majority of Physicists will not rise to this challenge. They respond, weakly and wanly, in the spirit of Feynman:

Well, Gee, Nobody Understands Quantum Mechanics!

Well, did you ever goddam try? Really! I like Feynman, but this crap really annoys me.

It is a holier-than-thou attitude. I am Feynman, I tried, and it did not work out for me.

Mead made a valiant attempt at this goal in his monograph Collective Electrodynamics.

The book seems to have received the same attention as his talks.


I find this perplexing.

How can people claim that it is legitimate to run around claiming all kinds of grand insights into speculative physics such as String Theory and then Pooh Pooh every considered effort to understand the: Goddam Theory We Already Got?

In my opinion, Mead is spot on in his critique. Laser sharp and right on target.

You may think his solution poor, but he goddam tried.

All the Big Egos are off very safely speculating on things that will never be examined.

The solution, I feel, is obvious.

Let Engineering Inherit the Earth.

Physics is One Lame Mule.

Put it down now. We could take the theory we got and just work hard at simplifying it.

I can see massive opportunity to do this already, and society is alive to understand Quantum Mechanics. For some bizarre reason, the public want to understand it.

Not the Teleportation Bullshit…

I mean understand how the world actually works without the Holy Wow Shit.

People want “To Get It!” They are hungry for actual real live working understanding.

So: Stop Bullshitting Folks! Stop pretending that blowing Opaque Colored Smoke out of Every High Priest Orifice counts for understanding. It Counts for Nothing.

It is a Ruffle Collar and a Purple Robe and Bunch Of Cryptic Latin Verse.

Right now, I see zero evidence of that among the carefully groomed Egos of Big Shots.

I see an endless: Fan the Flames of Confusion Ego Trip.

A droning dull as dog crap incantation: This stuff is so weird you will never ever get it.

Bullshit! That is why I am not a Physicist anymore.

It is just too Goddam Embarrassing.

I am a Quantum Engineer.

The Mongol Way

shootbackThe Mongol Way
I Genghis, Scourge of the High Priests of Quantum Zealotry, and fond admirer of the Color Blue of Eternal Heaven, do hereby declare:

1) The Mongol Horde shall only trade in: Marketable Theories of Something.

2) Trade in Theories of Anything, Everything and Nothing is: Punishable by Death.

3) Jousting for Mind Fluff, is permissible, but only on Feast Days, which are held daily.

4) Those traveling without a passport stamped “j” will be the: Object of a Game of Polo.

5) When a choice of color is involved it shall: involve Blue.

6) When no choice of color is involved it shall: be Blue.

7) There is no choice for the square root of minus one – It Shall be “j”, The Mongol Way.

8) Those under the banner of “i” shall be hunted down mercilessly – You “i” You Die!

9) Loyalty to “The Mongol Way” enjoins: Merchantable Solutions to Many Problems.

10) The Mongol Way is based on merit. You solve it, you enjoy the: Spoils of Plunder.

The Mongol Horde may lay siege to any problem under the: Blue of Eternal Heaven.

The Spoils of War are Yours when: The Back of Opposition is Broken.

Bury your Gold. Lock up your Horses, your Women and your Goats.

The Mongol is Coming!

The War of the Copenhagen Succession

War of the Spanish Succesion
War of the Spanish Succesion
The concept of a War of Succession is well established and deeply rooted in history.

In essence, it represents the natural human reaction to a Power Vacuum.

I may comment primarily on Physics, for this blog, but my audience should understand that economically I am a Professional Investor. Sure, I know physics and you will, by now, understand that I am opinionated (Ed. No, really? Ed. Yes, you Dozy Bastard!).

However, from a professional, earn my crust, battle-proven, perspective I am an Investor and Trader. The last qualification, the single word Trader, is significant.

Emphatically, it means I am a Turncoat.

I would just as happily buy you as sell you. Not You specifically, but my inventory exposed to the thoughts and actions of you as I perceive them. If I see a glut of Bananas coming then I will certainly sell you Bananas.

However, mostly, I will not appear eager to do so.

Why would I want you to know that I have too many bananas?

Well, even that depends. Perhaps you are a great customer and I will warn you?

Then again, perhaps not!

That is the thing about traders. They are, well, Traders. You can trust them but only if you move with the times. I say this because very many people despise traders. They say: Why do you first sell me bananas and now lemons?

Er, you got good grades in school: Work it Out!

Back to the War of Succession.

What has this historical phenomenon (repeated over and over and over again) have to do with trading? It is very simple. People are made differently, which is a Good Thing. Traders know which way the wind blows and when it blows they Change.

They have a knack for self-preservation. Like a Cat, they land on their feet. They are non-aligned and say things that will certainly piss off: Somebody – All of the Time.

You do not actually need many such people. Their function is limited and their craft is very murky. On the other hand, you do need many stalwart people who more or less assume humanity is: Well-Directed – Most of the Time.

In Roman terms, these people are the proverbial Salt of the Earth. They are good, hard-working, caring people who contribute actively to progress.

They are the Bulk of Society.

However, let me remind you of a strange geological fact.

Every so often, the magnetic field of the Earth reverses. What was the North magnetic pole becomes the South and vice-versa. I mention this fact, not because of any mystical connotation, but to explain for what reason a War of Succession happens. The majority of folks have no interest in Hacking the Kernel of Human Nature. However, if you want to be a good Trader, and certainly if you crave Excellence, you must.

When the magnetic field of the Earth reverses… that is a War of Succession.

People seek security in Authority because they are generally good, hard-working souls. They rightfully expect that authority, certainly Authority of Noble Descent, will reward them for their labor. That is reasonable, and the normal state of affairs.

Beware though! When the stars realign and the field switches polarity then: The Old Allegiances are Thrown into Chaos. The Ancient Greeks knew this well, from bitter experience, and invented a bunch of Remedies.

Tragedy, Poetry, Philosophy and many other sundry diversions including Wine!

Modern Man is ill equipped for the present shift in thinking. It takes many forms and is near Universal. Contrary to a bunch of popular nonsense, it has nothing to do with The Mayans, Astrology, Disaster, or the Urgent Need for Nuclear Weapons to Fry Incoming Asteroids. However, it has everything to do with finding new productive ways to live.

When traditionally productive activities are threatened then the Good Folk, who make things happen, who care little for hacking human nature, feel threatened. Indeed, they are Restless for a Reason.

The old ways of living are not working and so there is desperate search for New Authority. Often that involves the Canonizing of, or Demonizing of, Old Authority.

Just like Football Teams! This is Our Time, Right Now.

In such times, it pays to know History.

The title of this blog: The War of the Copenhagen Succession betrays my concern.

I see a great Foment of Activity about a simple fact: Modern Physics is in Crisis. It has just this year progressed from Theories of Everything to Theories of Nothing. This is a manifestation of Social Crisis. Niels Bohr, with help from Werner Heisenberg, gave us the quite useful Copenhagen Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics. This concerns our deepest and most mysterious theory of how Nature works.

However, that theory is old now… 85 or 100 years old, depending on how you count it. Humanity has grown out of it, and asks questions which the theory denies entirely.

Ergo… the geomagnetic field reversed and that World View is Toast.

Like all theories it was and is a Mental Construct. It is an impermanent Approximation to Truth. However, folks do not comprehend how the picture we employ of the world may well turn on a dime. They do not concern themselves with philosophical nonsense!

One year the earth is flat, the next it is round and we have potatoes.

This perplexes folks and leads to Wars of Succession. If now the world is round and we have Potatoes, what is to become of my Aubergines?

Shall I mount a protest and Storm the Bastille?

My advice, as a Trader, is: Never Fight Change.

If the mind of the physicist should move – like a Star Quake – from contemplation of Theories of Nothing in the direction of Theories of Something then do not fight it.

Just work out what people will Buy in that New World!

Even better, if you really want to survive, be the Agent of Change.

The Eye of the Storm is the Calmest Place in God’s Firmament.