Saturday, March 31, 2012

Democracy Deficit: Islam, Arab Culture, or Being Ruled by a Caliphate for Centures?

Eric Chaney argues for the latter, but not as well as he should.

Mathew Yglesias summarizes his argument:
In particular, he argues that you can't say that specific elements of "Arab culture" account for the deficit because it's present in non-Arab countries as well. But you also can't say that specific elements of "Muslim culture" account for the deficit because it's not present in Muslim-majority countries that weren't part of the original Arab conquest:

And I think he's mostly right, but he puts too many countries in the wrong category. Turkey was not conquered by Arab armies, but by Turks. Pakistan was briefly conquered by Arab armies, but then spent most of its history under non-Arab dynasties.

I suspect the variable he's seeking is not "conquered by Arab armies" but "spent over 500 years ruled by a Caliphate dynasty". Which does seem to correlate better with a 21st century democracy deficit.

Tourney Rules of the Order of the Banda, ca. 1330

Swords must have blunt edges and points.
Vervelles must not be sharpened.
The judges will inspect both.
The knights must swear not to strike the face with the point or a backhand blow (reves) or hit someone whose helm or cervelliere has fallen off, until he puts it back on, and that someone who falls to the ground will not be trampled.
The tourney will begin with the sound of trumpets and kettledrums, and at the sound of the trumpet they are to gather on either side.
In a large tourney in which each side has their own standards, when knights are pulled from the saddle the captured horses are to be taken to where the standards are kept, and not returned to the owner until the tourney is over.
Afterwards, the judges will choose one winner from each team.
If thirty knights or less tourney, there will be four judges for each side. If fifty or more, there will be eight for each side. If a hundred knights or more tourney there will be twelve judges for each side.

Fallows, Noel. 2010. Jousting in Medieval and Renaissance Iberia. Woodbridge, Suffolk: Boydell Press. pp. 4-5

Jousting Rules of the Order of the Banda, ca. 1330

Each knight runs four courses
A broken lance beats no breaks
Two breaks beat one
A broken lance that unhelms counts as two
Unhorsing counts as two lances, even if the lance doesn't break
Knocking a knight out of the saddle beats knocking down horse and man "because in this case the fault was the horse's and not the rider's"
Lances only count as broken if they are broken by striking with the point. i.e. if the lance misses and the jouster breaks the haft on his opponent's body, it counts for nothing.
If a knight drops his lance while charging, his opponent should raise his lance and not hit him.
There will be four judges, two assigned to each team.

Under these rules, although they intend to give extra credit for unhelming, the rules-lawyering in Froissart with lightly laced helmets makes sense. If you are unhelmed but your opponent's lance doesn't break, he gets no credit.

But the tactic is only effective on the jousting field under particular rules: it would be quite perilous on the battlefield. Later rules put a stop to such capers. Those for the Valladolid jousts of 1434 specify that one who is unhelmed may joust no more that day.

Any martial art that aspires to provide useful training for actual combat experiences a constant struggle between the rules-lawyers and the rule-makers.

Fallows, Noel. 2010. Jousting in Medieval and Renaissance Iberia. Woodbridge, Suffolk: Boydell Press. pp. 209-210

Zapata on Jousting

The 16th century Spaniard wrote:
What looks really good is to turn the body slightly at the moment of impact, for better strokes are made this way, and it looks graceful, for anything that stirs movement in an armoured man looks good, since it makes that fantastic figure seem like he is alive, and not just a piece of iron.

Fallows, Noel. 2010. Jousting in Medieval and Renaissance Iberia. Woodbridge, Suffolk: Boydell Press. p. 391

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Passo Honroso of 1434: Intrusive Attacks

Pero Rodriguez de Lena recorded a detailed account of the Passo Honroso of 1434. He recorded 724 courses, in which 165 lances were broken.

By Chapter
16: Spear penetrates eyeslot near the target's left eye and draws blood, victim claims "'Tis nothing, 'Tis nothing." The author cheerfully observed that had not the victim simultaneously struck his opponent with "such a mighty blow upon his left pauldron that he almost would have pierced it, and he made him suffer a serious reversal of fortune" his opponent would have "poked the spear through his eye to the back of his neck in such a way that he would have killed him"
18: Minor wound on the "inner parts" of the left gauntlet.
32: The unfortunate Asbert de Claremunt is struck through the eyeslit with a "such a mighty blow that he pushed the entire head of the spear through his left eye into his brains."

The Passo Honroso of 1434: Penetration

Pero Rodriguez de Lena recorded a detailed account of the Passo Honroso of 1434. He recorded 724 courses, in which 165 lances were broken.

By Chapter:
8: Right arm pierced near armpit, great loss of blood, victim faints. Bystander faints.
12: Gaping wound to the bicep "with a palm's length of the broken spear pierced through to the other side"
15: Arming doublet and shirt penetrated beneath the right pauldron, blood drawn.
20: Spear skates into the right biceps and breaks: victim is wounded twice in the biceps, and has his hand dislocated, either from the spearhead, a splinter of the spear, or his own grapper breaking.
27: Spearhead penetrates "the right arm, near the shoulder joint next to the armpit, in such a way that the spearhead poked through to the other side, which caused a gaping wound, and a lot of blood flowed out of it."

The Passo Honroso of 1434: Blunt Impact

Pero Rodriguez de Lena recorded a detailed account of the Passo Honroso of 1434. He recorded 724 courses, in which 165 lances were broken.

By Chapter:
9: Victim "dazed for a while in the lists"
18: Hit on brow, victim suffers "moderate reversal of fortune"
19: Victim, hit on bevor, suffers "moderate reversal of fortune"
21: Stroke on the wrapper of an armet: "moderate reversal of fortune"
22: Victim hit " in the teeth with the same blow, and he stunned him, and made him suffer a serious reversal of fortune. And from the point at which he was struck up to the head of the lists he almost fell off his horse."
23: Horse and rider fell to the ground, serious reversal of fortune in a later course
24: Moderate reversal of fortune, and his opponent dislocates his hand. Another moderate reversal of fortune. Yet another for the man that struck.
25: Self-inflicted serious reversal of fortune when jouster hits the tilt and lodges the butt of his own spear "between the front arcon of the saddle and the skirt of the cuirass over his belly, so that if he had not collided with the tilt, both horse and rider would almost certainly have fallen"
29: A hit on the bevor "stunned him, and made him suffer a serious reversal of fortune"
30; "and made him suffer a serious reverse of fortune, in such a way that he came out of the saddle slightly, and almost fell." In anther encounter, horse and rider knocked to the ground. On the other side, a serious reversal of fortune, with horse and rider "driven back from the tilt almost as far as the palisade, which must have been thee paces away from the point where he was struck, and he and the horse almost fell."
31: Victim, who was recovering from a previous injury "stunned for a moment in the lists."
33: "made him suffer a serious reversal of fortune", and his opponent did so in return.

The Passo Honroso of 1434: Uncovering Attacks

Pero Rodriguez de Lena recorded a detailed account of the Passo Honroso of 1434. He recorded 724 courses, in which 165 lances were broken. Armor damage was the most common outcome.

By Chapter:

2: Breastplates punctured on both sides: judges insist on repair. Left pauldron disgarnished
3: Pauldron lame disgarnished, lance rest broken away
4: Breastplate penetrated, repair necessary
6: Lance rest broken, grapper and gauntlet disgarnished, pauldron disgarnished, couter wing broken off
7: Besagew of spaulder disgarnished
9: Pauldron disgarnished, penetrated breastplate must be repaired
11: Left gardbrace cast to the ground, gauntlet reinforce struck off:
13: Pauldron disgarnished
14: Right pauldron of both disgarnished
15: Pauldron disgarnished
18: Rondel bent in half
19: Pauldron disgarnished, bevor knocked to the ground
21: gauntlet struck to the ground, left pauldron struck to the ground.
22: Pauldron "hoisted off"
23: Bevor cast to the ground.
24: Reins broken, pauldron ripped away
25: Right gardbrace struck to the ground
26: Couter wing struck to the ground, impact jolts right arm so gauntlet flies off "about seven or eight paces away"
27: Pauldron disgarnished. Stop-rib of a breastplate disgarnished.
29: Tasset disgarnished
30: Gardbace ripped off and a piece of the bevor knocked to the ground. Piece of the right pauldron ripped away.
32: Right pauldron digarnished, left pauldron digarnished.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Tent Models

1/6 scale model reconstructions of medieval tents by Robert MacPherson. A wooden hoop or oval frame at the shoulder keeps the roof spread without the need for widely spread guy ropes.

Round Without Guys

Marquee Closed
Marquee Open

Tent Structures 1380-1415

There seem to have been two main structural types of medieval tents: In some the roofs were spread only by the tension of guy ropes, in others the roof was spread by a rigid internal structure, typically a hoop or frame at the shoulder.

When documentary evidence is absent, we need to rely on iconographic evidence.

There are several diagnostic clues to a rigid frame: guy ropes descending at a steeper angle than the roof line, insufficient ropes to give the tent the shape shown, guy ropes meeting the tent below the shoulder, and the tent roof keeping its shape while the tent is falling or being raised.

Absence of any external guy ropes is also evidence in favor of an internal frame, although it has been argued that the artist chose not to show them for some reason.

Diagnostic clues in favor of a rope-spread tent are guy ropes descending no steeper than the roofline, and the roof and wall sagging between the ropes.

I went through the Manuscript Miniatures database for 1380-1415, since I am particularly interested in that period.

Tents with no guy ropes shown: here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here

There are more images from elsewhere here, here, and here.

Here is a fresco at St. Stephan in Obermontani, c. 1400-1410.

Tents with three of the other diagnostic clues in favor of an internal frame: here, here, here, and here.

More images from other sources are here, here and here.

With two: here, here, here, here, here, and here, here.

Another image from elsewhere

With one: here, here, here, here, and here

The best candidate I could find for a rope-spread tent is the foremost one here, in that the ropes descend at the correct angle, but there aren't nearly enough of them to give the tent the very round shape shown.

In the sample above, there are 87 tent shown fully enough to judge the floor plan reasonably well:
71 (82%) round
6 (7%) rectangular
1 (1%) oval
4 (5%) ambiguous: I can't be certain if they are oval or rectangular, so they could push the rectangular or oval categories as high as 11% or 6% respectively
4 (5%) polygonal, in these cases hexagonal
1 (1%) other.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Medieval Tents with a Rigid Internal Frame

By the second half of the 14th century it seems to have been common for medieval tents to have had a rigid internal frame at the shoulder of the tent, circular, polygonal, oval or rectangular as the shape of the tent demanded.

There are several indications when a medieval artist is depicting such a tent, rather than one spread by the tension of guy ropes alone:
No guy ropes shown, (also here) or an insufficient number to give the tent the shape shown.
Guy ropes descending at a steeper angle than the roofline. See also here, here, and here.
Guy ropes meeting the tent somewhere other than the shoulder. Also see here, here, here, here, here, here and here.
Falling tents keeping their roof shape as they fall. Also here, although that one might be being erected.
Realistic depictions of a tent with a smoothly cylindrical valence but folds depicted in the walls.
Dormers on the roof.

There are several advantages to this design. Because the guy ropes can descend at a much steeper angle than the roofline, the tent can have a much smaller footprint. Fewer guy ropes are needed, and less attention needs to be paid to keeping them quite taut. The rigid frame helps the tent shed wind well.

In contrast, Simone Martini's 1328-1330 fresco shows the classic features of a tension-spread tent: guy ropes that descend no steeper than the roof slope (in this case, less steeply,) ropes attached at the shoulder, and a tendency of the roof to sag between the rope attachment points.

But rigid frame tents seem to also have been in use as early as the mid 13th century.

I believe, based on the iconography, that in the late 14th century and in the 15th century this type of tent was more common in Europe than tension only designs.

In addition to the iconography, there is documentary evidence of timber work beneath a valence in 1467 and pavilion hoops in 1511.

Here are more posts on tents.

Oh, My Hand

What scribes wrote when feeling rebellious or grumpy.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

NASA's 2013 Budget Request

NASA's 2013 budget request is quite close to what Congress appropriated for 2012: it's down only .3%. So why does Planetary Science take such a big hit, dropping from $1.5 billion to $1.2 billion?

Here's the problem. ISS and Space and Flight Operations are up $300 million over 2012, which was anticipated in previous budgets. The essentially complete station takes more money to run, our logistic flights will be carried under the ISS budget rather than the Space Shuttle's, and aging communication systems need to be replaced. James Webb Space Telescope has been suffering serious overruns and is up over $100 million over 2012.

There are no good options. NASA could ask for a bigger overall budget, but in the current fiscal and political climate, Congress seems unlikely to grant one. I think we can live without the big SLS launcher, but Congress has mandated one and on a tight schedule. The JWST is another target, but a lot of money has already been spent, and it should be an amazing capability when finished. A commercial manned spacecraft is the fastest and cheapest way to restore U.S. access to ISS.

That leaves unmanned exploration, unfortunately.

A Plan to Deliver Tacos with Unmanned Drone Helicopters

We live in an age of marvels.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Battleship Sushi

Nomnomnom. Gunkan Maki, the style typically topped with salmon roe, translates as battleship roll. Artist Mayuka Nakamura executes the idea literally.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Three Portuguese vs. Three French at Paris (1415)

It happened that many knights and squires of the realm of France gathered together, and they saw that there were many Portuguese come from the realm of Portugal with the intention of doing arms. And they concluded together that they would find three noble men which they would send to the Portuguese to say and indicate to them that they knew well that they had come from the realm of Portugal with the intention to have the acquaintance by arms of certain noble men of the realm of France. Because of this they had found among them three noble men which, they made known to them, were ready to accomplish their desire and will. That is to say to do arms against three noble men of their company, which would be to fight with axe, sword and dagger until each one or the other of them were surrendered to their companions or was carried to the ground . When this thing was declared to the Portuguese they took joy in answering that day would be quickly accomplished. And they agreed to the arms aforesaid, of which the Duke of Guienne would be judge, and they would do them outside Paris at one of the lodgings of the king between St. Denise and Montmartre called Santthouin.

When the day came to do these arms, with the Duke of Guienne on his scaffold, accompanied by his uncle the Duke of Berry, the three Frenchmen, that is to say Sir Francois de Grignaulx, Marignon de Songnacq and la Rocque, entered into the lists which had three pavilions erected for the three. but before they entered within their pavilions they went to do reverence to the Duke of Guienne their judge. Afterwards, there came the three Portuguese, that is to say Alavaro Continge, Pierre Gondsalve de Mallefaye and Rumaindres, who also did reverence to the judge and entered their three pavilions. Afterwards as is customary they made the cries, warnings and other ceremonies. These done and accomplished the six noble men issued out of their pavilions dressed in coats of arms and the Portuguese bearing the red cross on their coats of arms, holding their axes in their hands and each furnished with their other weapons. They came together to fight; that is to say Sir Francois de Grignaulx against Sir Alvaro Continge, Marignon de Songnacq against Pierre Gonsalve and la Rocque against Rumaindres. And it was good to see them. In truth they carried themselves as good men at arms.

It happened by fortune that Rumaindres who was held to be the most powerful of the six was fighting with his axe and pushing with the spike with all his force against la Rocq to make him retreat. When la Rocq felt that Rumaindres was putting forth all of his strength to make him recoil, he stepped back a pace and with this move Rumaindres fell on one knee. Then la Rocq struck him and stretched him out on the ground. I do not know if the Portuguese surrendered or not, or if their was any speech between them; but it is true that la Rocq left him and went to aid his companion Marignon, and they both found themselves against Pierre Gonsalve who quickly surrendered. And then Maringnon and la Rocq went to aid sir Francois de Grignaulx who fought the Portuguese knight. And then the three Frenchmen found themselves against the Portuguese knight who fought against the three. And in fighting Marignon gave him a great swinging blow which made him fall to earth, and so the arms were accomplished of which I have told you.. Afterwards, they asked the Portuguese to which of the Frenchmen he surrendered and he responded that he had surrendered to all three. And truly he acquired, in spite of his misfortune, great honor that day and many held him to be the bravest of the six.

And around the time of the battle of the six in the year 1414* in the same place of Santhouin in the month of February the Portuguese named Diego D'Ollumen, did arms against a Breton named Guillaume de la Haye which Portuguese and Breton did combat without either the one or the other being defeated.

* Old style. Prior to the 16th c, the year was generally considered to start at Easter. By modern reckoning this would be 1415.

Jean Le Fevre, Seigneur de Saint-Remy Chronique Paris 1876 I. 208-211

Translation copyright 2003 Will McLean

But at this time there were also knights of Spain and Portugal. Of these three from Portugal well renowned for chivalry took, through I know not what mad enterprise, the field of battle to meet with three knights of France; that is to say, Francois de Grinquos ... La Roque... Morigon; and it was ordained to the outrance for the 23rd day of February, the vigil of St Peter and St. Ouin, and it was before sunrise ... that they entered the field; but in God's good truth, it didn't take longer than it takes to go from the gate of St. Martin to that of St. Antoine by horseback, before the Portuguese were discomfited by the three French of which La Roque was the best.

Anon. Journal d'un Bourgeois de Paris in Nouvelle Collection des Memoires pour Servir a l'Histoire de France Paris 1836 Vol. 2. p. 644

Translation copyright Will McLean, 2003

There were three other Portuguese, who required to do arms against three French, who were a knight and two squires. And the knight was named Sir Francois de Grignaud, one of the squires, Archambaud de la Roque, and the other, Maurignot, and all three were Gascons. And they made known to the Portuguese, who were nearby, that if they wanted to demand or require anything of them, that they would defend themselves. Then the Portuguese thanked them and chose an hour and day and place when and where the work would be done. And so each one made his provisions as well as he could. When the day had arrived, the lords who were to be in charge went to their scaffolds where there were men placed to guard the field. The English were to advise and accompany the Portuguese.

There was one difficulty, who was to enter the field first. But it was said that the Portuguese should enter first, and that was reasonable, because in effect they were plaintiffs. And so they went with great pomp, accompanied by lords of England and of their own country. Then, almost at the same time the French entered equally well and honorably accompanied. On one side and the other the trumpets sounded loudly: all showing their eagerness to do their duty. After the cries that were customary in such matters were done, the parties arose equipped with their armor and weapons appropriate to such occasions.

It seems that each of the Portuguese chose a Frenchman. The knight, who was a valiant man ,went and advanced and presented himself to Sir Francois. According to what they say, the most valiant of them all, and most renowned in war, addressed himself against la Roque, and the other to Maurignon. And when they came to their axes the one who fought la Roque pierced him beneath the top of his piece, and when he felt that the iron of his axe was taken within the harness, he began to push strongly, seeking to open up the harness. And when la Roque perceived this, he held himself firm, with the intention of doing what he would do next: when he perceived that the Portuguese leaned forward to push more strongly, all of a sudden with the swiftness of his body with which he was most skillful, he stepped back so that the Portuguese fell, carried away headlong. La Roque gave him two strokes with the axe on the head, so that he was thoroughly stunned, and drew his sword to thrust him in the behind: others said that he lifted his visor and that he wanted to strike him in the face. Anyway, whatever he did, the Portuguese surrendered, and was discomfited, and taken by the guards.

After this la Roque looked to his companions to see who had the most to do, and he went with the full force of his axe, and gave such a blow to the one who was having to do with Maurignon that he staggered him, and Maurignon with another stroke made him fall to earth and surrender. And then the two, that is to say la Roque and Maurignon, went to help Grignaux who was badly worked over and wounded, particularly in the left hand, which was pierced through so that he was unable to use it. But when the knight saw the two others come against him he saw that he could no longer resist and said in a loud voice "I surrender to you three". And it was said that all had done very valiantly: The French went through Paris, trumpets sounding and the people were joyful that they had the honor.

Jean Juvenal des Ursins Histoire de Charles VI, Roy de France in Nouvelle Collection des Memoires pour Servir a l'Histoire de France Paris 1836 Vol. 2 p.503-504

Translation copyright Will McLean, 2003

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Rumaindres vs. de Bars (1415)

After these arms were done at Bar le Duc, the aforesaid Sir Alvaro Continge and other Portuguese went to Paris, where they began to perform many arms between the Portuguese and the French. One of these was done in the courtyard of Saint-Pol, one of the lodgings of the king, by a brave and powerful squire of Portugal, named Rumaindres, to meet with a Bourbon knight named Sir Guillaume de Bars. These arms were to be done on foot for a number of strokes; that is to say twelve strokes with the axe, twelve strokes with the sword and twelve strokes with the dagger. They were to do these arms before the king, but Sir Jean de Toresay, seneschal of Poitou, had to serve as judge in the king's place. After the knight and squire were led within their pavilions and all the customary ordinances that are done in such cases were given, the knight and the squire issued out of their pavilions, axes in hand, which were without a spike, with a large hammerhead and a small cutting edge. They approached each other, and struck with the axes against each other, from high to low and without pushing , with such great strength and force that in truth that it seemed that they would break their helmets. And finally they gave each other such great strokes that they were not able to perform the full number; they became entangled and took each other by the arms. Because of this, the seneschal of Poitou had them restrained by the guards and would not allow them to do more with axes. And they retreated into their pavilions since when the arms were accomplished with each weapon they were supposed to retreat.

After doing arms with axes, they came out holding the swords in their hands, these were furnished with very strong and large rondels over the hand. They came together to fight with them, striking one against the other with point and edge with such great force that notwithstanding that the number of the strokes had been accomplished and the baton thrown down to restrain them, the guards, in spite of all their diligence, did not know how to separate them before they made eighteen strokes instead of twelve, so rudely did they fight.

And after they had done these arms with swords and retreated into their pavilions, they issued out with daggers in hand, and with which they met to fight and give the number and more; but that seemed little enough compared to what they had done with axes and swords. And they did the arms which I have told you of and accomplished them to the honor of both parties. Other arms were done on horseback with a Portuguese against a Frenchman before St. Antoine near the Baudet gate, which arms were given and performed for a numbered course of lances.

Jean Le Fèvre, Seigneur de Saint-Rémy Chronique Paris 1876 I. 206-208
Translation copyright Will McLean, 2003

Saturday, March 17, 2012

If the Moon Is a Harsh Mistress Happened in a Universe with Our Physics

Page 294: Lunar rebellion fires first shot from Super Seekrit fusion powered second catapult.

Page 295: U.N. missile fired from Earth-Moon Lagrange Point 1 vaporizes the catapult's unhidable radiator.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

False Equivalence Award for March 2012

We're only halfway through the month, but she so thoroughly pegged the meter that I'm going to award it to Pamela Geller right now.
Did you see the virulently anti-Catholic ad that ran in the New York Times last week? That ad inspired AFDI/SIOA, in cooperation with SION (Stop Islamization of Nations), to create the same ad but for one thing: different religion. The craven quislings at the New York Times rejected our ad.

I said, “But I am, it’s the exact same ad.”

He said, “No, it’s not.”

The NYT is exactly right here, and Ms. Geller is entirely wrong. If it was exactly the same ad with only the religion changed, we might imagine it directed at Jews. It would then be directed at a particular Jewish denomination, as the original ad was directed at a particular Christian denomination. It might condemn that denomination arguing to impose their own moral choices on everyone else. It might condemn Haredi leaders who argued in favor of sexual segregation enforced by the state, and who vehemently opposed a requirement that a Haredi-funded hospital still needed to provided desegregated access for patients and employees. It might urge Haredi women to depart for a more liberal denomination.

Now, let's imagine the real "only the religion was changed" version of the Geller ad, translated back to one directed at Christians:

All the outrage...
(Picture of Fred Phelps ranting)
..over this..
(Small picture of crucifix suspended in urine) a bit hard to swallow.

Open Letter to "moderate" Christians:
It’s time to quit Christianity.
It’s your moment of truth. Will it be religious freedom, freedom of speech, or back to the Dark Ages? Do you choose women and their rights, or priests and their wrongs? Whose side are you on?

In light of the ongoing, ruthless, international crusade against abortion, the 2,000 year record of institutionalized oppression of women, the many Christian attacks across the world, and the endangering of free peoples across the world, if you’re part of the Christian Crusade, you’re part of the problem.

Why are you aiding and abetting Christian leaders who have repeatedly and publicly announced that abortion is murder, and thus that those that perform or abet it are worthy of death, and who deny the rights of all women everywhere.

Think of the acute misery, poverty, needless suffering, social evils and deaths that can be laid directly at the door of the Christianity's antiquated doctrine.

If you imagine you can change the church from within — get it to lighten up on Jew-hatred, hatred of women, hatred of non-Christians, hatred of gays — you are deluding yourself. If you remain a “good Christian,” you are doing “bad” to the rights of women and non-Christians everywhere. You’re kidding yourself if you think the church is ever going to expunge the Bible of its violent and repressive texts or interpret them out of existence.....

See what she did there? The original ad was about a specific denomination with a central hierarchy that defines its doctrine and excommunicates people who depart from it. The Geller version treats Islam, a religion that contains many different denominations, as identical to its craziest sects. It is gratuitously insulting nonsense, and a good deal more inflammatory than the first ad.

Violent Killings of Emos in Iraq

I wish this was an Onion story.

If your culture is frightened of Weezer fans, well, your culture is weak, and should be ashamed of its cowardice.

Who you hate says a lot about you. Nazis, snakes, OK.

But, seriously, hardline clerics, Emos?

Don't Mess with the Space Patrol

Space Patrol by ~WillMcLean on deviantART

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Brunel's Imperial Walker

Source: via Sydney on Pinterest

Steampunk: so goths can wear brown.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The King Who Doesn't Lie

The Roi que ne ment was popular game of the 13th and 14th century. It was played by adults, particularly those of an age to seek courtship, but also, according to Froissart, by children under twelve.

A ruler for the game was chosen, who might be male or female, a king or queen of the game. Their court, when the record was clear, was always a mixture of male and female.

In most accounts the ruler asked everyone present a question, and was then required to answer their questions in return. One account had the ruler ask questions without being questioned in return, and another has the reverse. The questions were frequently courtly but sometimes bluntly sexual. A response might provoke a follow up question ("Good madam, be what reson?") or debate.

For late 15th c. demandes d'amour in the Winchester Anthology, see pp. 95 r to 107 v.

Courtly literature: culture and context ; selected papers from the 5th Triennial Congress of the International Courtly Literature Society contains an interesting article on the game by Richard Firth Green, who makes a convincing argument that the demandes d'amour that survive in several manuscripts were play aids for the game.

International Courtly Literature Society, Keith Busby, and Erik Kooper. 1990. Courtly literature: culture and context ; selected papers from the 5th Triennial Congress of the International Courtly Literature Society, Dalfsen, the Netherlands, 9-16 August, 1986. Amsterdam: J. Benjamins Pub. Co.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Games Young Froissart Played

Froissart's childhood amusements in his L'espinette Amoureuse included making mud pies, round loves, cakes and tartlets in a little oven made from four tiles, riding a stick horse named Griselle, Hot Cockles, Prisoner's Base, The King Who Doesn't Lie, whipping a top and making soap bubbles with a little pipe.

Also hide and seek, blind-man's bluff, and pitching pennies (using lead pennies or stones)

Plus a lot of games I can't identify.

Squire vs. Esquire

I have been asked what the difference was between a squire and an esquire in the Middle Ages

The short answer is that they were just two different ways of spelling the same word, derived from the Old French escuier, esquier, eskuwier, or eschuier. A squire was either a superior servant, below a knight and above a yeoman or valet, or a person of the social rank from which such men were recruited, typically a country gentleman with less land than a knight. By the 14th century, some wealthy squires had as much land as a knight,and squires in the first sense could come from the families of respectable merchants: Geoffrey Chaucer, who served as a royal squire, was a vintner's son.

By this time a squire in service might be a domestic servant, but might also serve as a military commander or, like Chaucer, a bureaucrat.

The words didn't diverge in meaning until the 17th century or later, when esquire in England became a polite suffix for any person that might be considered a gentleman,including a lawyer, but squire tended to refer to substantial country gentlemen.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Two SF Webcomics

Nine Planets Without Intelligent Life

"A philosophical road comic about two unemployed robots on an improvised interplanetary voyage of self discovery."


Deadpan comic space opera

Thursday, March 08, 2012

A Trip Across the Solar System

A breathtaking photo album at the Atlantic.

The Viagras Are Some of My Biggest Fans

The Viagra brothers, Buy and Generic, frequently post comments on this blog. For some reason Blogger keeps putting them in the spam folder, and I never seem to find time to get them out of it.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Two Modest Proposals to Improve SCA Heraldry

1: Make one clear difference sufficient for simple arms to avoid conflict. If it was good enough for the Earl Marshal's Court of England in 1389, it's good enough for us.

2: Make one clear difference sufficient to avoid conflict with arms registered by individuals in other kingdoms. Except for very famous and important arms, medieval kingdoms did not try to prevent conflicts with arms born by families in other kingdoms, even though a significant number of people actually did move to other kingdoms. Sir Walter de Manny, Sir Otto de Grandson, and Christine de Pizan are three examples.

Excessive requirements to avoid conflict greatly impoverish the available repertoire of simple arms.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Scrope vs. Grosvenor Was Wrongly Decided.

To quote from Wikipedia:
In 1385, King Richard II of England invaded Scotland with his army. During this invasion, two of the king’s knights realized that they were using the same coat of arms. Richard Scrope, 1st Baron Scrope of Bolton from Bolton in Yorkshire and Sir Robert Grosvenor from Cheshire were both bearing arms blazoned Azure a Bend Or. When Scrope brought an action, Grosvenor maintained that his ancestor had come to England with William the Conqueror bearing these arms and that the family had borne them since. The case was brought before a military court and presided over by the constable of England. Several hundred witnesses were heard and these included John of Gaunt, King of Castile and Duke of Lancaster, and Geoffrey Chaucer, and a then little-known Welshman called Owain Glyndŵr. It was not until 1389 that the case was finally decided in Scrope's favor. Grosvenor was allowed to continue bearing the arms within a bordure argent for difference. Neither party was happy with the decision, so when King Richard II gave his personal verdict on 27 May 1390 he confirmed that Grosvenor could not bear the differenced arms. His opinion was that these two shields were too similar for unrelated families in the same country to bear.

From this we see that in 1389 the Earl Marshal's Court believed the addition of a bordure created sufficient difference between two otherwise identical arms born by two different families in the same country. Richard II overruled that decision in 1390, with important consequences: in my opinion, for the worse.

Families would often differentiate different branches by making simple changes in the original arms: a cadet branch might add a bordure, or change the tincture or number of the principal charge.

However, in the simple heraldry of pre-1390 England, different families could easily assume similar or even identical arms entirely independently, as Scrope and Grosvenor (and, in an earlier case involving these arms, the Cornish family of Carminow) discovered.

Richard's decision drastically limited the possible number of simple non-conflicting arms. According to the 1389 ruling, one clear difference was sufficient. You could get many variants by just changing tinctures. In pre-1389 English heraldry, six were in common use: the colors of red, blue and black the metals of gold (yellow) and argent (white) and the predominantly white fur of ermine. For reasons of contrast, a colored charge was almost always placed on a metal or ermine, and vice versa.

Under the 1389 rule, each simple ordinary had 18 variants based on tincture changes alone. Alternatives to azure a bend or could also use argent or ermine for the bend, and red or black for the field, and could reverse the scheme to double the options.

Richard's 1390 precedent greatly reduced the available options. If you needed two clear differences (or an entirely different primary charge) your choices shrunk. Each simple ordinary only allowed six variants. If the first choice was azure a bend or, a red field could only use an argent or ermine bend. If argent was chosen, sable a bend ermine was the only remaining choice. Reversing the color scheme doubled the options to a paltry six.

After 1390, English heraldry was increasingly handicapped by the limits of the 1390 Ricardian precedent, and became more and more complex to evade its rules of conflict.

Twisters on the Sun

Filmed by NASA's Solar Dynamic Observatory

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Christine de Pizan and the Archers of England

There's a passage in Charity Cannon Willard's translation of Christine de Pizan's The Book of Deeds of Arms and of Chivalry that's been bothering me since I first read it. In part 1, chapter 10, p.3, Willard translates the passage with: "In this art young Englishmen are still instructed from early youth, and for this reason they commonly surpass other archers. They can hit a barge aimed at from a distance of six hundred feet." Which seems a strange target for archery practice.

Through the wonder of Gallica, I went back to the original French, where they shot at buttes, which has the same meaning as the butts used as archery targets in English.

That was like scratching an itch.

There are some lesser differences as well. I read it as:
In this art young Englishmen are still instructed from early youth, and for this reason they continually surpass other archers. They shoot at the butts from a distance of six hundred feet.

Saturday, March 03, 2012


Con by ~WillMcLean on deviantART

This was originally drawn to illustrate a Philadelphia Daily News article on Philcon.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Muscle vs. Armor: Exhaustion and Overheating

A man in armor can be defeated when he is too exhausted or overheated to defend himself. The challenge is finding a way to insure that your opponent reaches his limit before you do.

One approach was to maintain a defensive fight that was economical of energy, as when a Portuguese named Diego d’Ollumen fought against the Breton Guillaume de la Haye in Paris in 1415.
And the Portuguese came very boldly and joyously, seeking to strike his adversary. But he always put aside his blows, without doing anything else. The fight continued for some time, but he still remained on the defensive as he had been advised. Often the Portuguese lifted his visor, and made signs to the other that he should do likewise. When the fight had continued for some time in this way the Portuguese lifted his visor and Guillaume de la Haye, without lifting his, sought to present the point of his axe to his face. The Portuguese began at once to retreat, but when they saw how it was going they cried “Ho, ho, ho” and went diligently to take them. They say that the Portuguese was very short of breath, and that if de la Haye had wanted to come a little closer he could have thrown him to earth in wrestling, as he was one of the best wrestlers you could find. Then both of them were given honor and good cheer.

Jean Juvenal des Ursins Histoire de Charles VI, Roy de France in Nouvelle Collection des Memoires pour Servir a l’Histoire de France Paris 1836 Vol. 2 p. 503

Another tactic was to fight so that your helmet let you breath more easily than your opponent, either without a visor or with your visor raised. Chastellain's account of the Lalaing vs. Douglas fight in Scotland in 1449 reported that Jacques de Lalaing fought without a visor and could breath freely and his opponent, James Douglas, who fought with a closed visor, could not. He added that Lalaing wrestled against Douglas in order to put him out of breath.
Sir James fought in his basinet with a closed visor, and Jacques was without a visor so that he could breath freely, and that of Sir James was quite the opposite. This was easily seen when king threw down his baton and and the visor was raised.

Georges Chastellain, Chronique de J. de Lalain ed. J. A. Buchon (Paris, 1825) p. 203

You could improve your chances of prevailing by being in better physical condition than your opponent. Boucicaut was known for his rigorous physical training.
And now he began to test himself by jumping onto a courser in full armor. At other times he would run or hike for a long way on foot, to train himself not to get out of breath and to endure long efforts. At other times he would strike with an axe or hammer for a long time to be able to hold out well in armor, and so his arms and hands would endure striking for a long time, and train himself to nimbly lift his arms. By these means he trained himself so well that at that time you couldn't find another gentleman in equal physical condition. He would do a somersault armed in all his armor but his bascinet, and dance armed in a mail shirt.

Froissart, Jean, Jean Alexandre C. Buchon, and Jean Froissart. Vol. 3 1812. Les chroniques de Sire Jean Froissart... / [Et du] Livre des faits du bon Messire Jean le Maingre, dit Bouciquaut. Paris: Soc. du Panthéon litt.

Dom Duarte of Portugal, writing in his 1434 Regimento para aprender algunas causas das armas also advised endurance conditioning.
On the third hour (Tierce) on some days he goes to practice. And to practice he should arm himself with all weapons and goes on foot a great distance up a (hill) for a long length (piece or section) to strengthen himself.

Translation by Steve Hick in Oakeshott, R. Ewart. 2002. SPADA: an anthology of swordsmanship in memory of Ewart Oakeshott. Union City, Calif: Chivalry Bookshelf.

Limbaugh Unapologetic

In other news, water is still wet.

Update: Limbaugh has apologized, for certain values of apologize.

The Right's Achilles

In the war against the institutional Left, Andrew Breitbart was the Right’s Achilles; the bravest of all the warriors, now fallen on the plain.

wrote Michael Walsh.

Homer's Achilles was an arrogant, wrathful, cruel, mutinous man who spent most of the Illiad sulking in his tent because he wasn't getting what he wanted. Not how I'd want to be remembered.

Ta-nehisi Coates has what I think is a fair evaluation of Breitbart's record.

What's Wrong with the Star Wars Prequels, Continued

In the original movies, particularly the first, Lucas borrowed a lot from Kurosawa, who in turn borrowed liberally from John Ford and Dashiell Hammet.

In the prequels, Lucas borrowed much less, and his work was correspondingly poorer.