Thursday, March 31, 2011

Happy Birthday to Me

Today I turned 30, in hexadecimal, or 40 in base 12, or 48 if you want to limit yourself to boring old decimal. As a happy coincidence, Amazon just shipped the Field of Glory Renaissance army book that I had ordered pre-publication back in December; it covers India and the Far East, and I'll review it a bit later.
My festivities are somewhat overshadowed by the arrival in DC tomorrow of Gwen, Joshua's girlfriend, who is probably departing Australia right around now. We've had spring-cleaning-on-overdrive around here, getting ready.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Snow?

Cold and rainy, and I thought I saw snow as I drove home, but it was white flower petals drifting down from the trees.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Glory Road

   What did I want? 
   I wanted a Roc's egg. I wanted a harem loaded with lovely odalisques less than the dust beneath my chariot wheels, the rust that never stained my sword. I wanted raw red gold in nuggets the size of your fist and feed that lousy claim jumper to the huskies! I wanted to get up feeling brisk and go out and break some lances, then pick a likely wench for my droit du seigneur--I wanted to stand up to the Baron and dare him to touch my wench! I wanted to hear the purple water chuckling against the skin of the Nancy Lee in the cool of the morning watch and not another sound, nor any movement save the slow tilting of the wings of the albatross that had been pacing us the last thousand miles. 
   I wanted the hurtling moons of Barsoom. I wanted Storisende and Poictesme, and Holmes shaking me awake to tell me, "The game's afoot!" I wanted to float down the Mississippi on a raft and elude a mob in company with the Duke of Bilgewater and the Lost Dauphin. 
   I wanted Prester John, and Excalibur held by a moon-white arm out of a silent lake. I wanted to sail with Ulysses and with Tros of Samothrace and eat the lotus in a land that seem├Ęd always afternoon. I wanted the feeling of romance and the sense of wonder I had known as a kid. I wanted the world to be what they had promised me it was going to be--instead of the tawdry, lousy, fouled-up mess it is. 
     --Robert Heinlein, Glory Road

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Rapier

Coolest birthday present of the year:
This is an R6 swept hilt rapier from Zen Warrior Armory in North Carolina. It arrived today and was greeted with much glee and cries of "Shiny!". This one has the 40" rapier blade and bell pommel; the balance is about an inch in front of the guard. Shiny!

Japan vs US

I saw a report that the cost of the Japanese earthquake/tsunami is expected to run around $250B, making it the most costly natural disaster in history.
Obama's proposed budget has a $1,645B deficit, six times the cost of the tsunami.
So having the Obama administration is like having the worst natural disaster in history every two months.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Gibson, Anasazi

William Gibson's Zero History is, for the first six chapters or so, basically setting the scene. The scene, however, is essentially modern day reality, so I didn't really need six chapters for that. Nothing of interest happens in those first few chapters; I imagine if I kept reading, something would eventually happen, but at this point, I don't really care. I just found this review and enjoyed it more than the book.

I received In Search of the Old Ones a while ago, thinking to learn about the Anasazi. It's not really about the Anasazi, though; it's about the history of the archaeological study of them. So what you're reading about is the cowboys who stumbled across the first cave pueblos, and what happened to the artifacts, and how scholars divided Basketmaker from Pueblo periods, and the author's own explorations. If that's what you want, it's a good book.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Close Action AAR

Al Parker hosted a Close Action game in Annandale, with Josh and I taking the French, versus Al, Richard, and The Other Al as the British, in a scenario set around 1748 and using the 12-direction movement rules in Bloody Red Flag. Unfortunately I don't recall the name of the historical action it was based on, or of the English commander; I believe the French commander was du Bois de la Motte, and the historical outcome was pretty much a draw.
Three British ships, three French, with nearly equal point totals. Josh took the lead (Alcide) and rear (Arc en Ciel) while I had the flagship (Magnanime); the Brits are Plymouth, Worcester and Lenox. The two squadrons start in line ahead, approaching each other head on, with the British slightly downwind.
I gather that in the actual battle, both sides sailed ahead and fired as they passed, then turned around and did it again, rinse and repeat. In the game, however, the two English leading ships turned around immediately, presumably so the French wouldn't catch them before the biggest English ship could catch up and join in. The French line got rather extended in pursuit, but the English did nothing to attack Alcide before the others caught up.
On turn 8, Alcide cut downwind of the trailing English ship, took some fire, and suffered a "wheel shot away" critical hit. My ship also suffered the same crit, which means we can only pivot once per turn instead of twice. It makes us a lot less maneuverable. The consequence is that three turns later, we both collide with an English ship. It costs Magnanime some rigging; Alcide suffers the worst possible rigging loss, then gets a "mast may fall" critical, rolls badly, and loses another mast. She's basically dead in the water. Fortunately we're positioned such that we have targets and can get off some effective fire, and the English don't have good shots. Richard's ship Worcester can't shoot at us at all, because our ships are too close to an English ship; wargamers might take the shot and risk hitting a friend, but real captains wouldn't, so the game doesn't allow it.
I point out to Richard that he has a good shot at another English ship, and switching sides could greatly enhance his retirement. South of France, south of England, which one sounds better? The other Al says "English cooking!" and we reply that's another argument in favor of France. French weather is better. French wine. Al Parker points out that the English have Stilton and cheddar; I riposte that we French have over 200 kinds of cheese. French women. The other Al says "But they don't lie back and think of England!"; the rest of us realize that this is a telling point in favor of France. Richard is looking awfully tempted, but (perhaps due to the fact that the game doesn't actually allow switching sides) he resists.
On turn 12, Alcide forms boarders, which is rare, but she's fouled with Plymouth, immobile, and no longer has a target, so Josh figures he might as well try it. Unfortunately he takes enough casualties from cannon fire that the crew's morale drops and they refuse to attack. He sends them back to the guns. Richard still doesn't have a shot; visions of courts-martial dance in his head.
Superior French tactics begin to overcome the maneuverability disadvantage. By turn 18, Lenox is surrounded; she's the biggest English ship but has taken a lot of damage and her gunnery has dropped off a lot. Plymouth is still close to the action and taking fire, while Worcester moves around the furball and finally has a clear line of fire. On turn 19, Alcide aggressively drifts ("how do you drift aggressively?" Watch Josh, he can show you) down to sandwich Lenox with Arc en Ciel on the other side, while Plymouth unwisely closes on Magnanime, which has twice the firepower. Worcester mulls the increasingly attractive option of  running away, and justifying it with "Someone had to survive to to report what happened."
We called it at that point due to time. Final tally was that the English squadron had lost 2 mast sections, 3 hull and 4 crew, total nine sections; the French had lost 4 masts, 2 hull and 2 crew sections, total eight. It was a narrow French victory, although we had a clearly superior position and would probably have has a greater margin of victory if the game had continued a few more turns.

A good scenario and a fun day gaming.

Friday, March 18, 2011

No great deed

No great deed is done by falterers who ask for certainty.
--George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Spring

 The Bradford pear trees are puffs of white. Tulip trees are blossoming pink and white. Other trees are still in bud, but soon to flower.

Politics as usual is over

From Armed and Dangerous

Monday, March 14, 2011

Pi Day

Today is 3/14, and therefore Pi Day. We're celebrating with key lime meringue.

Coase

Got up way too early and went to church. Thought I was going to help with the sound set up, except it turned out to be an acoustic set up, which took about ten minutes. So in my remaining ninety minutes before service started, I read 'The Problem of Social Cost',* by Ronald Coase. Key passage:
It is clear that the government has powers which might enable it to get some things done at a lower cost than could a private organization. [...] But the government administrative machine is not itself costless. It can, in fact, on occasion be extremely costly. Furthermore, there is no reason to suppose that the [...] regulations, made by a fallible administration subject to political pressures and operating without any competitive check, will necessarily always be those which increase the efficiency with which the economic system operates. [...]
All solutions have costs, and there is no reason to suppose that government regulation is called for simply because the problem is not well handled by the market or the firm.
One would think this was obvious, but the paper has several remarks about economists who say, in effect, "There's a problem, therefore we need more government."

Coase won the 1991 Nobel Prize for Economics.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Bugs

One of the downsides of living in a warm climate is that bugs, including pantry moths, also live in a warm climate. I put out a couple of foggers at noon. When Josh arrived, he asked how Operation Dalek had gone, so I told him "I have successfully deployed weapons of moth destruction."

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Blades

Rob Brunner recently emailed me a reminder of Darkwood Armory's excellent rapiers. That's going to turn out to be an expensive email, I'm sure. I prefer straight quillons--but which guard to get?
Closed hilt double ring?


  Closed port swept?

NorKo EMP Bomb?

North Korea Nears Completion of EMP Bomb

Speaking as someone who lives on one of the prime military targets on the East Coast...not what I wanted to hear.

Tiny Cuts, Big Complaints

Reason Magazine has an article on Tiny Cuts, Big Complaints. The first paragraph points out that Federal spending will be about $3.8 trillion, whereas the cuts are $61 billion--yet people are complaining about it. I suspect that part of the problem is that "61" looks large compared to "3.8". So instead, say that we're going for 61 billion in cuts out of a 3,800 billion budget.

Three thousand eight hundred billion dollars. This year.

Spring 11

We've had a convocation--emphasis on vocal--of geese on the river behind the house for the last couple of days. If you're going to be awakened at 6:30am, at least the honking of geese is better than the honking of cars. And the daffodils have been coming out this week. Spring is here.

Not that that's a guarantee it won't snow again, particularly with the way this winter has been.

Action

We should be taught not to wait for inspiration to start a thing. Action always generates inspiration. Inspiration seldom generates action.
--Frank Tibolt (the motivational author, not the staff officer for PRHN TF11 in the Honor Harrington books)

Hat tip: Tom Barclay

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Situationist

Along the lines of my Pinger post, someone has come up with the Situationist app.
Now all I need is a phone that will run apps....

Monday, March 7, 2011

Wingsuit Formation Flying

Video: Wingsuit Formation Flying

Stones and Scriptures Notes

Now that you've seen the pretty pictures, here are some notes from the seminar.

Dr Carroll, speaking of the ancient scriptures, said "I may have touched and seen more of these things than anyone else in the world." He led two seasons of the excavation of a monastic complex at Wadi el Natrun, Egypt, which was at that time the oldest known intact church, dating from the third century.

One thing he used to do to train his archaeology students was to get three 5000 piece jigsaw puzzles, put into it a couple of handfuls of pieces from each puzzle into one bag, then take the bag into class and say "Put this together. Keep working at it every day. Document what you think it is." He seemed to look forward to the day when a student would realize they had five or more corners...

He noted that some people will say the Bible must be full of mistakes for the same reason the Telephone Game is interesting. The books were copied and the copies were copied and now we have no idea what the originals look like. But this doesn't take into account that the scribes weren't listening to someone whisper; they could see what they were copying and they took great care to make it accurate. This is provable--we can compare scrolls from 250BC with the Leningrad Codex, written around AD1000, and there are very few changes across 1250 years.

He also said there are things to remember about archaeologists:
1. They like to find things, but they don't like to publish. Of potential archaeological sites in Iraq, less than 1% have been examined and published. The percentage is even lower in Israel and Egypt. The collection Dr Carroll is working with has 11,000 cuneiform tablets; he said it would take about 150 years to publish them all.
2. They need funding, and that affects what they announce and when. You'll hear about things which could be a spectacular find, but it won't make news when it turns out to be a mistake or a forgery. "The bone box of James the brother of Jesus? Forgery. Shroud of Turin? I'd love for it to be the real thing but I think it's probably from a crusader in the late Middle Ages. The idea that the ark of the covenant is hidden in Ethiopia is preposterous. As for Noah's ark, I wouldn't waste a second or a dollar trying to find it; it's not "on top of Ararat", it's "somewhere in the Ararat range" and the wood wouldn't have survived this long anyway. The chariot wheel on the floor of the Red Sea? When a diver went to look, it had miraculously transformed into the steering wheel of a 1971 Jeep.
3. Archaeologists have political and religious biases, and that affects how they interpret data.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Jane Austen's Fight Club

The first rule of Fight Club is, one never mentions Fight Club.
No corsets.
No hatpins.
And no crying.
If this is your first invitation to Fight Club, you must fight.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Stones and Scriptures

We spent of most the day at a Bible history seminar called "Stones and Scripture" where Dr Scott Carroll, executive director of the Green collection, presented a table full of ancient and medieval scriptures--the real thing, not reproductions--and discussed the archaeology and history of the Bible. 

Dr Scott Carroll
cuneiform cylinder

ancient and medieval books and scrolls

Torah scroll

Psalm 74 and 75, Septuagint

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

6000 pages views

The counter flipped over 6000 at around 10pm tonight

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Koch Industries

An article in the Wall Street Journal by Charles Koch, talking about crony capitalism and bloated government.