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"Although throughout the 19th century the principle of Auftragstaktik was being incorporated into German military doctrine, it still met resistance. The term Auftragstaktik first surfaced in the early 1890s. It was coined by those who resented the process, as the term was to show disdain. Auftragstaktik was considered a threat to military discipline and, thus by extension, to everything military.... Auftragstaktik is based on an image of [a] man who values his individual dignity and freedom and who harnesses them to achieve superior strength. This concept is still valid for the 21st century. Based on the premise that leadership encompasses two aspects—being a role model and accepting responsibility—leadership requires competence, strength of character, trust, initiative, judgment, assertiveness, and decision-making ability at all command levels. Only Auftragstaktik enables the meaningful exploitation of the most sophisticated technology, and only Auftragstaktik allows mastery of the increasingly complex challenges of the 21st century. Most important, it takes the encouragement of superiors and the courage of subordinates to make Auftragstaktik work."[1]

"Ironically, the well-known WWII successes of Auftragstaktik came after it was already in decline, because of Hitler's intolerance for disobedience. Guderian spent most of the Battle of France making excuses for (and bending the truth about) how far his units were advancing."[2]

Name: Michael Turner

Location: Takadanobaba, a college district of Shinjuku, in Tokyo, close to the science and engineering campus of Waseda University.

Occupation: technical translator (J-E) and co-manager of a ryokan. I do some writing as well.

Technical translation and its woes[edit]

As a translator, I mostly work on patents, but sometimes on technical manuals as well. My specialties reflect my erstwhile career in software engineering, with its concentration on CAD for VLSI, hardware diagnostics, electronic instrumentation, device drivers, embedded systems and firmware. I have always worked freelance. I got into technical translation by way of living in Japan and learning the language, but also by working as a proofreader, and technical rewriter. Increasingly, I'm interested in developing software tools to facilitate the patent translation process.

My main frustration in patent translation, aside from feeling that I lack the speed and skill required for some jobs, is that a great many patents lack originality. Or, as I put it rather acerbically sometimes, "My career goal is to always be working on patents for real inventions." Translating a good patent from Japanese involves a struggle with not only the source language, but with the idea. There should always be an "ah-ha!" moment that dimly echoes the inventor's, something in the idea that makes it non-obvious to "one skilled in the art." All too often, I struggle longer with an obvious "invention" than with a real one, not just because the vacuous patent is usually egregiously padded, but because I have to keep combing through all that padding to see if I've missed real innovation somehow. The work (when it's good) has a benefit besides pay: it's keeping me abreast of some frontiers of 21st century technology.

Hospitality: the brighter side of the coin[edit]

As co-manager of an inn, I am somewhat more 19th century Japan than 21st century anything. I help with greeting guests, giving them advice and directions, cleaning, repairs, etc.--tasks that haven't substantially changed in centuries. However, my main function is cyberspatial: processing e-mail reservations, maintaining the schedule database, and promoting the ryokan over the Web as cheap (and authentically Japanese) accommodations in the otherwise rather expensive and overbearingly Westernized city of Tokyo. So I suppose I'm more 21st century after all, even in what is otherwise a dying Edo period accommodations niche.

I find I like running a ryokan more than software development, and more than patent translation. It's not rocket science, but it has its satisfactions. A software project might run for months, then fail, or stagger into production leaving nobody involved very happy about the results. In patent translation, the clients often know that the idea documented is pretty vacuous, and that it will probably come to nothing, and their cynicism is infectious. In this ryokan business, chiefly catering to foreign tourists, we're part of making people quickly feel a little happier for a little while: they get a room in a Japanese-style family home that makes them feel they are really in Japan, and that they sort of know somebody here. Being involved in budget travel brings in unusual (occasionally eccentric) guests, most of them on the younger side, from many countries, and that keeps life continuously interesting. We're a guest-house, but increasingly a friend-house.

Writing: an avocation and a mission[edit]

As a writer, I'm decidedly 21st century. Though I've written a few articles for the English language press in Japan about the IT industry, I've mostly written op-eds on space development for, and a few essays in The Space Review. I still follow such commentary closely, but haven't written any for a while.

I am currently working on a book: a history of the concept of the space gun (projectile launch from the Earth's surface) as a cheap alternative to rocket launch, at least for bulk materials and ruggedized equipment. This approach includes using conventional artillery-style propulsion to launch multistage rockets, but among the promising alternatives, there are also rail guns, coil guns, light gas guns, and (my personal favorite) ram accelerators. Space guns would have some nice features if they could be made to work, such as low-cost repeatability and a much higher ratio of payload mass to vehicle mass. If space tourism, and in particular the concept of space hotels, takes off over the next few decades, space gun launch could become the "dump truck" of commercial construction projects in orbit. I feel that working on the book is a service; even people with PhDs in aerospace engineering suffer from misconceptions about the concept, and the idea is more associated in the popular mind with Belle Epoque SF (Verne) and latterday sources of angst (weapons proliferation) than with space aspirations.

My researches on the book have so far taken me twice to Seattle, to look at the University of Washington Ram Accelerator lab and interview researchers there. I have also visited McGill University in Montreal, for its significance in the history of Gerald Bull (of Project Babylon infamy) and also for the interrelations between University of Washington and Canadian researchers on gun launch and the relevant science and technology. The book mission has also taken me to some interesting space-oriented conferences.

Why I work on Wikipedia[edit]

I find working on Wikipedia satisfying and useful in several ways. It is an opportunity to hone my proofreading, writing, and rewriting skills, as well as my technical knowledge, while supplying useful information to everybody for free. The encyclopedia at your fingertips -- this an idea that occurred to me almost immediately when I first started programming computers over 35 years ago. (At the time, I didn't realize that this vision went back at least as far as Vannevar Bush's Memex.) Now it's happening and I can be a part of it.

At some point, I might start translating Japanese articles that either don't yet have English equivalents, or whose equivalents are seriously lacking, and I might clean up some J-E translations. This could help me stay in practice in the sometimes-long lulls between freelance translation jobs.

Perhaps it's only a side-effect, but I find that the concentration required for improving Wikipedia also helps me find better uses for the information I seek out on Wikipedia--i.e., that working on Wikipedia is making me better at almost everything else I do. As a hotel operator, I'm a better source of advice to guests about Tokyo, and Japan generally. As a technical translator and very occasional journalist, I'm better informed on my subjects and continuously expanding my knowledge. As an aspiring author of a book for a general audience, I find that NPOV is actually an edifying exercise, not an obstacle (and it's making me aware that I need to improve in this respect).

Richard Eberhart once said, "style is the perfection of a point of view,/ nowise absolute, but held in the balance of opposites"[3]. It's important in writing to try to stay in close touch with what is perfectly factual, even if you can't find the absolute, even if you can't balance opposites. If perfection in writing is your aim, you should always stay alive to exactly what it is you're trying to perfect, whether you're concerned with fact, flair, or some blend thereof. Working on Wikipedia helps me do that. If similar benefits are felt by most other contributors, then Wikipedia might be one of the biggest win-win volunteer games on the Internet since Open Source software development.

Footnotes ?![edit]

  1. ^ "Auftragstaktik and Inner Fuhring: Trademarks of German Leadership" by Major Gen. Werner Widder, German Army, former chief of staff, Headquarters, Stabilization Forces, Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina; in Military Review, Sep 2002
  2. ^ 'Re: "Auftragstaktik"', Henry Spencer, 11 May 1988, RISKS Digest Vol 6 Iss 82
  3. ^ Dickens and the Trials of Imagination, Garrett Stewart

Links, and enough about me[edit]

My (out of date) resume.

My (usually neglected) blog, Transcendental Bloviation.

About my Wikipedia name: Yakushima is a fascinating island off the southern coast of Kyushu. I once tried to cross it on foot, years ago, but had to turn back because the trails were obstructed by trees blown down by one of the worst typhoons since WW II. The Wikipedia article does not yet do it justice.

My userfied articles:

[N.B.: the Aerovator concept does not originate with me, but with Andreas Windemuth. I've simply reconstructed an article deleted for WP:NOTMADEUP and WP:NOR violation; likewise, "moderated nuclear explosion" was something originally deleted for WP:NEO and WP:NOR; I've saved a revived version for other purposes.]

Some bibliographies I'm building up for later work on articles:

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