Gun & Garden

Gun & Garden:

Via The Sage of Knoxville, a 14-round pump-action bullpup shotgun for home defense.

OK, as far as it goes. It doesn't go far enough, however...

Now you're talking.

Siege fo Beauvais

The Siege and Women of Beauvais:

In this week in 1472, Charles of Burgundy was advancing upon the town of Beauvais in France. She was a proud Medieval city, and even at this late date -- technically just after the Hundred Years War -- her garrison was feudal rather than composed of professional mercenary companies. These are her arms:

The few knights raised by the feudal system were extraordinary strategists, but too small in number to defend the walls against what was then a modern army -- one that boasted not only mercenaries in ranks, but a professional artillery unit that kept up a day and night barrage on the gates of the town. The walls indeed were breached, but in the words of historian Geoffrey Hindley (Medieval Sieges & Siegecraft, Skyhorse Publishing 2009, pp. 125-6):
[Although one gate] was badly holed by artillery fire, his men were fought back by citizens supported by women and even children, bringing up arrows and crossbow bolts and flaming torches to hurl in the faces of the attackers. Many women in fact plunged into the bloody hand-to-hand mêlée, hurling torches on their own account and helping ensure that the enemy could not force entry through what had now become an inferno.
The New York Times piece we read earlier this week mentioned "in 1433, officials in Florence charged with regulating women’s dress and behavior[.]" Regulations were meant not only to deal with possible sexual immorality (as the quote suggested), but also to enforce social class structure on an urban middle class that was increasingly competing with the old nobility in wealth and status.

It is therefore worth noting that the King -- who issued a charter for a municipal corporation for the city following the heroic defense -- also took the step of erasing the sumptuary laws for the city's women. "At a time when sumptuary legislation regulated dress according to social rank," the historian notes, "any citizeness of Beauvais might wear what she pleased; and the annual procession inaugurated to commemorate the victory was to be led by the women."

One of these women was Jeanne Laisné, who was better known afterwards as "Jeanne Hachette" -- roughly, "Joan the Hatchet." This is a fair nickname for anyone to bear, provided it was earned honestly; as good as Judas Maccabeaus, i.e., "Judas the Hammer."

Viking Music

Viking Music from Oslo:

Weapons of Less Than Mass Destruction

Weapons of Less Than Mass Destruction

Carole Anne Bond, a married but infertile resident of Pennsylvania, stole an unidentified "caustic chemical" from her employer and placed it on the door handles and mailbox of her sexual rival, causing minor burns. The State of Pennsylvania previously had convicted Ms. Bond on charges of criminal harassment of the same woman (who was bearing her husband's love child), but when Ms. Bond turned to chemical tactics, her unhappy victim took her complaint to the feds. They obligingly charged Ms. Bond under a federal law intended to enforce a global treaty to prevent nations from spreading the use of chemical weapons. The law in question, sections 229(a) and 229F of Title 18 of the United States Code, forbids knowing possession or use of any chemical that “can cause death, temporary incapacitation or permanent harm to humans or animals” where not intended for a “peaceful purpose.” It was enacted as part of the Chemical Weapons Convention Implementation Act of 1998, which implements provisions of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction, a treaty the United States ratified in 1997.

Far be it from me to excuse Ms. Bond's reaction to being cuckolded -- the sense of the Hall may be that she underreacted -- but surely this is a case for state rather than federal authorities? Must domestic disputes be drawn up into the august machinery for regulating international warfare?

Constitutional scholars and limited-government types alike will be interested to hear that the United States Supreme Court ruled unanimously yesterday that Ms. Bond has standing to challenge the federal law under which she is being prosecuted as an infringement of power reserved to the states under the Tenth Amendment. On the other hand, the Court also expressly disavowed taking any view on the merits of the challenge to the federal law; it ruled only that Ms. Bond had standing to challenge it. It will be interesting to see whether the courts below, having failed to see why she had standing to complain of the constitutionality of the law, will grasp the substance of her argument any more readily.

The Old Rolling Skies

The Old Rolling Skies

What's more beautiful than a thunderstorm on the water? Especially if you get to see it in time-lapse. There's a persistent weather pattern off the coast of Australia that produces a nearly constant thunderstorm, called "Hector." This clip is about ten minutes long and is worth watching to the sunset at the end. I love the way the color and smoothness of the water change. It makes you want to go look at some Turner paintings.

Lo, what a glorious sight appears
To our believing eyes!
The earth and seas are passed away
And the old rolling skies

I'm enjoying many of the videos on the site my neighbor sent me to, the source of this post and the one about golf-carts.

And Now for Something Completely Different

And Now for Something Completely Different

My neighbor, who knows that we feel socially inadequate because we lack a golf-cart, has sent me this video. Carts are popular on our small, low-traffic peninsula and are often tricked out for the annual parade. Across the bridge in the city limits, the city fathers have seen fit to pass ordinances requiring them to be licensed and outfitted with various safety devices before they can be driven on the streets. Who needs that? But I do wish my neighbors would emulate some of these über-carts, which feature upgrades with more social utility. These could inspire me to join the cart-culture at last.

We have a local golf course, but that's not what the carts are for. The course's owners have been trying to sell it for years with no takers. It's not officially open for business any more, so a handful of locals still go out and mow it now and then and play on it anyway. Last New Year's Day, one of the fire department captains took his airboat up and down the course. Anyway, the golf carts are for roaming the neighborhood and saying hello, typically at happy hour. Sometimes they congregate at the boat ramp and cook barbecue.

This Sounds Familiar:

I say this very thing every day, but I didn't expect to read it in the New York Times.

But in the face of recent headlines I find myself less inclined to analyze or excuse current mores than to echo medieval ones.
Cassandra will like this piece, I suspect.
There Went a Man:

Sir Patrick Leigh Fermor, may you rest in peace.

On the outbreak of war Leigh Fermor first joined the Irish Guards but was then transferred to the Intelligence Corps due to his knowledge of the Balkans. He was initially attached as a liaison officer to the Greek forces fighting the Italians in Albania, then – having survived the fall of Crete in 1941 – was sent back to the island by SOE to command extremely hazardous guerrilla operations against the occupying Nazis.

For a year and a half Leigh Fermor, disguised as a Cretan shepherd (albeit one with a taste for waistcoats embroidered with black arabesques and scarlet silk linings) endured a perilous existence, living in freezing mountain caves while harassing German troops. Other dangers were less foreseeable. While checking his rifle Leigh Fermor accidentally shot a trusted guide who subsequently died of the wound.
His occasional bouts of leave were spent in Cairo, at Tara, the rowdy household presided over by a Polish countess, Sophie Tarnowska. It was on a steamy bathroom window in the house that Leigh Fermor and another of Tara's residents, Bill Stanley Moss, conceived a remarkable operation that they subsequently executed with great dash on Crete in April 1944.

Dressed as German police corporals, the pair stopped the car belonging to General Karl Kreipe, the island's commander, while he was returning one evening to his villa near Knossos. The chauffeur disposed of, Leigh Fermor donned the general's hat and, with Moss driving the car, they bluffed their way through the centre of Heraklion and a further 22 checkpoints. Kreipe, meanwhile, was hidden under the back seat and sat on by three hefty andartes, or Cretan partisans.

For three weeks the group evaded German search parties, finally marching the general over the top of Mount Ida, the mythical birthplace of Zeus. It was here that occurred one of the most celebrated incidents in the Leigh Fermor legend.

Gazing up at the snowy peak, Kreipe recited the first line of Horace's ode Ad Thaliarchum – "Vides ut alta stet nive candidum Soracte" (See how Soracte stands white with snow on high). Leigh Fermor immediately continued the poem to its end. The two men realised that they had "drunk at the same fountains" before the war, as Leigh Fermor put it, and things between them were very different from then on.

Kreipe was eventually taken off Crete by motorboat to Cairo.
We are all instructed by those who went before. Here was one who went.



Let's say that a brain scan can identify children who are 75% likely to have criminal records before they turn 30. The question The Chronicle of Higher Education asks is, would you as a parent want to know? Perhaps a better question: given that the state will insist upon knowing, what protections should we put into place to ensure that these children are not pre-emptively stripped of their rights? To what degree does a 3-in-4 chance that you will do wrong (assuming that the estimate were accurate, instead of pie-in-the-sky untestable twaddle) alter your standing as a free citizen?

Another question that interests me: what if we find out these bad traits are also necessary for good qualities? Psychopathy seems to be linked to creativity; alcoholism is strongly correlated with artistic brilliance.

Good Start

Good Start:

Looks like Rep. Bachmann is off and running.

The congresswoman used her bluntness and charm to overshadow the men at the GOP debate—announcing her presidential bid and passionately defending the Tea Party....

In fact, Bachmann equivocated only once, when she couldn’t choose between Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash.

Well, Johnny Cash, obviously. Not that Elvis wasn't the man, in his day.

Arendt, August., evil

Augustine and Friendship:

I find myself challenged by a claim that I found in Dr. David Grumett's "Arendt, Augustine and Evil" from Heythrop Journal XLI (2000), p. 154–169. His essential argument is that Hannah Arendt got her conception of evil from St. Augustine (on whose idea of love she wrote her doctoral thesis). The part that I find counterintuitive is this part:

The solace of
friends was a source of repair and restoration for Augustine in his early
dissolute life and – this is the key point – a substitute for God. ‘This was
a vast myth and a long lie’ because the flattery of this kind of friendship
is corrupting (C 4.7§13 and 9.8§18).
"C" in this case is the Confession, which is available here.

I'm wondering if this isn't an incorrect reading of Augustine. But rather than say why I think it isn't, I'd rather hear what you think about the proposition: is it correct as a reading of Augustine?

Perhaps more importantly, if it were correct would it be right? Confer Chesterton's Femina Contra Mundus:
The sun was black with judgment, and the moon
Blood: but between
I saw a man stand, saying: 'To me at least
The grass is green.

'There was no star that I forgot to fear
With love and wonder.
The birds have loved me'; but no answer came --
Only the thunder.

Once more the man stood, saying: 'A cottage door,
Wherethrough I gazed
That instant as I turned -- yea, I am vile;
Yet my eyes blazed.

'For I had weighed the mountains in a balance,
And the skies in a scale,
I come to sell the stars -- old lamps for new --
Old stars for sale.'

Then a calm voice fell all the thunder through,
A tone less rough:
'Thou hast begun to love one of my works
Almost enough.'
Here we have a case of lust -- deeply sinful and overwhelming -- that nevertheless begins to be a step in the right direction. I had read Augustine as saying something more like this: that the love of friends is a good thing, but "If souls please you, let them be loved in God; for they also are mutable, but in Him are they firmly established."

What do you think? Is it possible for sin to be a step in the right direction? Is friendship necessarily, then, 'a sin in the right direction'?

Why Should I?

Why Should I?

I call your attention to a post and comment thread at Megan McArdle's site on The Atlantic. For a week or more, she's been discussing why and when student loans should be discharged. Gradually, the discussion has sorted out participants in terms of whether they can see any reason why people should pay their debts unless they're forced to. After all, the law provides for remedies upon default, so doesn't that mean it's purely a question of legal strategy whether to pay a debt? There's a lot of confusion, as well, about whether it's possible to have a moral obligation to a corporation.

Is this new, or have there always been as high a proportion of Americans as this who don't know where their personal obligations come from?

Megan could use some help fighting the good fight. I was pleased to see her notice the same phenomenon C.S. Lewis does in "The Abolition of Man": people still have a strong and instinctive understanding of moral obligations when it comes to the breach of those obligations to themselves:

[W]henever you find a man who says he does not believe in a real right and Wrong, you will find the same man going back on this a moment later. He may break his promise to you, but if you try breaking on to him he will be complaining 'It's not fair' before you can say Jack Robinson.

The Dentist Is Your Friend

The Dentist Is Your Friend

I've had my first experience with endodontic therapy this morning. That's a root canal to us non-dentist types. My husband having had several in recent years, I didn't worry too much about all the horror stories I'd heard growing up. Sure enough, it was quick and painless.

I asked my dentist why root canals get such a bad rap. It seems the procedures have changed markedly for the better. For one thing, the anesthetics are better and are being delivered more reliably, so as to achieve real pain suppression during the procedure. For another, dentists used to have to rout out the nerve and pulp with a little manual barbed file, whereas now it's more common to use low-torque titanium drills that work quickly without cracking the root. They have automatic feedback mechanisms that cut back on the power automatically when they encounter too much resistance.

Root canals sometimes sound fearsome more because of the excruciating symptoms that make them necessary, often an infected tooth pulp, than because of the treatment itself. Luckily for me, I was suffering only from a slowly dying nerve that made the tooth abnormally sensitive to heat and cold, instead of from a just-shoot-me-now torturous abcess, so the whole procedure was pain-free. It took less than two hours, of which less than half was the drilling, the rest of the time being used up in waiting for the pain-killing shot to take effect and mucking about with the packing of the empty root and formation of the temporary cap.

Although post-root-canal teeth reportedly hold up well over time, it's never a good thing to have to remove the pulp, which is supposed to serve a function in hydrating the tooth and keeping it healthy. Late last year some interesting research was published about a new method of delivery of antibiotics using propylene glycol to penetrate efficient through the dentinal tubules. If it pans out, many root canals may be avoided in the future. These guys seem to be among the Pros from Dover in the field today.

I consider dentistry one of the crowning achievements of civilization. They've come a long way since the dark ages of dentistry:
In 1725, Lazare Riviere introduced the use of oil of cloves for its sedative properties.
In 1746, Pierre Fauchard described the removal of pulp tissue.

In 1820, Leonard Koecker cauterized exposed pulp with a heated instrument and protected it with lead foil.

In 1836, Shearjashub Spooner recommended arsenic trioxide for pulp devitalization.

In 1838, Edwin Maynard of Washington, D.C. introduced the first root canal instrument, which he created by filing a watch spring.

In 1847, Edwin Truman introduced gutta-percha as a filling material.

In 1867, Bowman used gutta-percha cones as the sole material for obturating root canals.

In 1891, the German dentist Otto Walkhoff introduced the use of camphorated chlorophenol as a medication to sterilize root canals.

In 1895, . . . the scientist Konrad Wilhelm von Roentgen accidentally discovered a new form of energy that had the ability to penetrate solid material. Because of their unknown nature, he decided to call these rays “X”.

A few weeks later Otto Walkhoff, a dentist in Brunswick, Germany, took the first dental radiograph, making a contribution to dentistry that almost equaled Roentgen’s to medicine.

In 1908, Dr. Meyer L. Rhein, a physician and dentist in New York, introduced a technique for determining canal length and level of obturation.

All these advances came to an abrupt halt early in the 20th century, when many experts concluded that they posed an unreasonable risk of trapping bacterial infections below gold caps. For nearly forty years, therefore, the treatment of choice for an infected tooth pulp once again was extraction. Around 1950, endodontics got back on track and has brought us to our current enviable condition.

Now that my lips and tongue are no longer numb, I think I'll go have lunch using my newly pain-free tooth.

Did QE2 Prop up European Banks?

Did QE2 Prop up European Banks?

Zero Hedge is kind of a wild site, somewhere they're not afraid to explore conspiracy theories, so I'm not sure how much to make of this article, which has now been linked by Business Insider. But it's an interesting and detailed argument that, in monetizing debt, the Fed was not bailing out our own banks but U.S.-based branches of European ones, to the tune of $600 billion. Zero Hedge claims this explains why U.S. banks still find themselves not only unwilling but unable to lend out their reserves.

Why Can't a Woman Be More Like a Man?

Why Can't a Woman Be More Like a Man?

Or rather, per the New York Times, why are we lucky enough that they aren't? To date, at least, female politicians have lagged in the competition for the most humiliating sex scandals. Are women who get their hands on the levers of power somehow naturally less reckless? Are they still so sensitive to the double standard that they police themselves more rigorously? Are they naturally less inclined to cheat, particularly in a way that will make them look utterly ridiculous?

The NYT tosses out several theories: Women are too busy doing a man's job and their own work to boot. Women run for office to do something, while men want to be somebody. Powerful men are sexual catnip to women, but powerful women do not enjoy the same effect on men. Are these patterns likely to change with the changing social mores? Will the future bring us more Paris Hiltons in office?

Rules for a Gunfight

Rules for a Gunfight

Home Prices in Gold

Home Prices in Gold


Today is the feast of Pentecost. Pentecost was the greatest feast at Camelot, when Arthur would take no meat until he had seen a wonder. I have not read that he ever went hungry.

In Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte D'arthur, Pentecost is the date of the beginning of the quest for the Holy Grail.

Then anon they heard cracking and crying of thunder, that them thought the place should all to-drive. In the midst of this blast entered a sunbeam more clearer by seven times than ever they saw day, and all they were alighted of the grace of the Holy Ghost. Then began every knight to behold other, and either saw other, by their seeming, fairer than ever they saw afore. Not for then there was no knight might speak one word a great while, and so they looked every man on other as they had been dumb. Then there entered into the hall the Holy Grail covered with white samite, but there was none might see it, nor who bare it. And there was all the hall fulfilled with good odours, and every knight had such meats and drinks as he best loved in this world. And when the Holy Grail had been borne through the hall, then the holy vessel departed suddenly, that they wist not where it became: then had they all breath to speak.
This is the third time the Holy Grail has appeared in the book. On both of the previous occasions it is accompanied by a white dove, who carries a censer in its mouth that is the source of the good odors.
And anon there came in a dove at a window, and in her mouth there seemed a little censer of gold. And herewithal there was such a savour as all the spicery of the world had been there...


And so came in a white dove, and she bare a little censer of gold in her mouth, and there was all manner of meats and drinks; and a maiden bare that Sangreal, and she said openly: Wit you well, Sir Bors, that this child is Galahad, that shall sit in the Siege Perilous, and achieve the Sangreal, and he shall be much better than ever was Sir Launcelot du Lake, that is his own father. And then they kneeled down and made their devotions, and there was such a savour as all the spicery in the world had been there. And when the dove took her flight, the maiden vanished with the Sangreal as she came.
The dove appears another time, not with the grail, but with the other item from the Crucifixion that was alleged to have made its way to Britain in King Arthur's time.
And then Sir Bors seemed that there came the whitest dove with a little golden censer in her mouth. And anon therewithal the tempest ceased and passed, that afore was marvellous to hear. So was all that court full of good savours. Then Sir Bors saw four children bearing four fair tapers, and an old man in the midst of the children with a censer in his own hand, and a spear in his other hand, and that spear was called the Spear of Vengeance.
The dove motif belongs to the original context, though not obviously. The Holy Spirit is supposed to have descended upon the disciples in the form of tongues of fire; but the Holy Spirit is also regularly symbolized by a dove. Here is a design by an artist who is using the dove to symbolize the Holy Spirit in the context of Pentecost:

We have talked about Pentecost previously, in 2007, and 2010. I hope you had a fine feast.

Criminal Libel?

Criminal Libel?

How many of you knew there even was such a thing? (I didn't.)

From the interesting site Popehat, which I've just stumbled upon, comes this story of a professor who calls the cops on one of his students for a satire. The story has a happy ending.

A student blogger published a tongue-in-cheek forum ostensibly edited by "Junius Puke," featuring a masthead photo of one Junius Peake, an economics professor at the University of Northern Colorado, that had been altered by adding Kiss-makeup and a protruding tongue. The professor, not one to let insulting ridicule pass, managed to persuade a local deputy DA to get a warrant to search the blogger's home and computers for evidence of criminal libel under Colorado state law. Per The Fire:

Shockingly, under Colorado law, criminal libel is committed when people "knowingly publish or disseminate, either by written instrument, sign, pictures, or the like, any statement or object tending to ... impeach the honesty, integrity, virtue, or reputation or expose the natural defect of one who is alive, and thereby to expose him to public hatred, contempt, or ridicule." That law is so overbroad as to already violate the First Amendment. [The blogger] argued as much, especially because the truth is no defense to the charge that a publisher/writer exposed the natural defects of someone. See C.R.S. §18-13-105. However, the Tenth Circuit ultimately held that [the blogger] lacked standing to challenge the statute as a whole, and, to this day, a violation of Colorado's criminal libel statute carries a penalty of 12 to 18 months.
Still, the Tenth Circuit did uphold the blogger's right to sue for individual damage, overturning the federal district court's finding that the deputy DA was entitled to immunity from prosecution, because no reasonable law enforcement officer could have found that there was probable cause for the search warrant. Under established Tenth Circuit precedent, "parody and rhetorical hyperbole, which cannot reasonably be taken as stating actual fact, enjoys the full protection of the First Amendment and therefore cannot constitute the crime of criminal libel for purposes of a probable cause determination." On remand, the district court recently granted a summary judgment for personal liability against the deputy DA.

The professor was not named in the suit, but he no longer teaches at UNC, and we can only hope that this story follows him wherever he goes.

Here is a list of states, not including my own beloved Texas, with criminal libel statutes. Many of them include some element of a defamation so shocking as to provoke a breach of the peace.

Calcio Fiorentino:

Apparently the ancient Romans used to play this game. There was an interruption in the tradition, so the rules may not be precisely the same -- in spite of what the video suggests, there are at least three rules.

1) No kicking the head.
2) No sucker punches.
3) You score by throwing the ball over the enemy's wall.

Otherwise, boys, go to it and good luck. Head-butts, biting, choking, and eye-gouging are perfectly legal.

H/t: Our brothers at the BSBFB, of course. It reminds me of another thing 'those ancient Romans' used to do: