Christmas Eve

This is worth a second viewing, if you watched it here last year.

Happy Holidays With Bing and Frank (Classic) from Dill Bates on Vimeo.

All the family has shown up now, and some early light feasting is happening. There is plenty of cheer, including the Christmas mead I made for last year -- which we did not drink, at that time, because my sister announced she was pregnant. Now I have a beautiful niece, and the mead is all the finer for a year's extra aging.


Grim mentioned that he got a bunch of post-election inquiries from left-leaning friends with a sudden interest in arming themselves.  Apparently it's generally a thing.

A Medieval Christmas Delicacy

NPR on bread sauce, which was thickened with day-old bread or toasted crumbs instead of flour.
Ground almonds and other nuts were also used as thickeners, as were eggs and animal fat, but the availability — and versatility — of leftover bread made it a medieval kitchen staple. It offered a good tempered and flexible way to create a variety of consistencies. And in the Middle Ages, being able to whip up a wide variety of soups and sauces was an essential part of the culinary skill set. Want a hearty stew? How about the recipe for Beef Soup (Beef- y-Stywyd ), written in 1420. It gives instructions to soak a loaf of bread in broth and vinegar, push it through a strainer, and then use this sourdough slurry to thicken a pot of simmering beef.

For something a little more piquant for the venison, the 14th century cook could make a batch of cinnamon sauce according to directions in the Forme of Cury, a manuscript roll of recipes attributed to the Master Cooks of King Richard II. The recipe required grinding up cardamom, clove, nutmeg, pepper and ginger with five times as much cinnamon, twice as much toasted bread as everything else, and stirring the lot into some vinegar. Stored in a cask, this made "a lordly sauce" that was "good for half a year."
Sounds pretty good, really.

Christmas Eve

We’ll be driving up for a quick day-trip with my mother-in-law and whatever other family can be there, which is quite a few given that my brother-in-law has four kids and eight grandkids. That means just a brunch with the family after presents and then a drive home, no big Christmas dinner, but we had Christmas dinner with neighbors last night (Oyster pan roast! yum!) and will do it again tonight, this time next door.

Today I’m making a big loaf of French bread for my mother-in-law, her special Christmas request. I’m out of practice, not trusting myself around fresh bread this year, so I did a trial run day before yesterday that suffered from my dingbat inattention during the final proofing. It tastes fine but looks funny. Today’s loaf needs to be pretty. Below is the beading project that distracted me until well after midnight, when I suddenly remembered, “You can’t go to bed yet! You haven’t even warmed up the oven yet! And what is this bizarre mound of dough that has giant bubbles coming out of it?” It was 3 a.m. before I got it out of the oven, but I made huge progress on the rainbow trout.  I have a taxidermy-style glass fisheye coming in the mail, so the eye won't always be just a vague hole with Marxalot.

We’ve just finished having the downstairs public areas painted and chased the workers out of the house until after the holidays. I love fresh clean paint. How old are we getting, that we would actually hire people to do it for us? My husband expressed the strongest possible preference for having guys come in, get it done, and get out. Apparently he thought I was likely to get started, drift around, get interested in other projects, and leave it 90% complete for a long time. Men can be so unfair.



A heartwarming Yuletide story from the Saga of Hrolf Kraki.

The name they give at the end is Hjalti, which means, "Hilt." Thus, he was honored by being named after the hilt of the sword he used.

Resistance in America

Two pieces on preparations by Left-leaning Americans for the forthcoming Trump administration:

On political preparations.

On kinetic preparations.

The Tenth Amendment option is still on the table. I mean, it's actually in the Constitution. All we'd have to do is quit pretending it doesn't exist.

Grim Should Enjoy This

Trump's Gone Too Far with His Military Appointments

Captain Crunch Nominated as Secretary of Scrumptiousness

Save the Snowflakes

It's sad that it's come to this. Do your part this holiday season to save the snowflakes. It's the right thing to do.

Star Wars: Rogue One

This is not a secret ISIS plan.  There really are Star Wars spoilers below the jump.

(Of course, that's just what ISIS would say, isn't it?)


I've been working away steadily at Chrismons in various media, but this week I stumbled on one that's absorbed me entirely:  a fish that started out in cartoon form with beaded outlines but ended up in solid beads.  The iridescent colors on the scales were too pretty to stop until I'd filled the space.  Now I see fields of beads before my eyes waking and sleeping like the ring of Sauron.  It's a bit like working on a mosaic, I suspect. I may have to try that, always meant to.

I'm going to do another one, a rainbow trout this time.

This One Won't Fly

Donald Trump can't pardon his way out of nepotism.
Maybe Newt’s right that the public would go to bat for Trump on [pardoning his kids for violating the law]. (Nothing would surprise me anymore.) But this sort of thing should be done, if it’s to be done, by repealing the anti-nepotism law properly so that our new pro-nepotist legal regime applies to everyone equally, not just the Trump royal family. If we’re going to let federal officials start staffing up with their kids banana-republic-style, let’s at least have the people’s representatives sign off on that on the record.
A major reason to oppose both the Bush and Clinton campaigns was the idea of an imperial presidency. I am happy to give the guy a chance, and I understand the reason to trust family more than others. All the same, this isn't going to work out.

Somehow I Missed the B-Side

Mr. "AR-15 Broke My Shoulder" Wants You To Celebrate the Murder of a Diplomat

When last we met Gersh Kuntzman, he was trolling to be called names by claiming that an AR-15 was sort of like a man-portable howitzer. He then turned the names he was called into another column on how proud he was to embrace his feminine side.

Now he's hit upon a new trolling technique: celebrating the murder of a Russian diplomat.

I wouldn't be surprised to learn that Putin ordered the hit himself, in order to justify Erdogan's further purge of Turkey's military/police apparatus and Turkey coming in on Russia's side in the war. Matter of fact, how convenient that the thing happened on live television, at an art exhibit dedicated to Russian-Turkish friendship. Someone should check to see if the diplomat in question owed anybody money, or had been sleeping with anyone important's wife, or had somehow gotten crosswise with his boss.

On the other hand, we don't kill diplomats for the same reason we don't gun down soldiers acting as heralds under a flag of truce. There's a basic civilizational norm: if we can't talk to each other, we can't stop fighting until one side is all dead. If one has any interest in even the possibility of peace, one has to put up with diplomats. Even John Kerry, for a while.


They really don't teach much anymore, do they?

So, this item, "How to be a Stoic" showed up in the latest New Yorker magazine, (hat tip to Instapundit), and in reading it, I am just sort of awestruck at the poverty of the woman's education.

I mean, she's got a PHD in comparative literature from Stanford.

Never heard of Epictetus until 2011? Really? I got a BA in history over 30 years ago, and while I freely admit my interests run much more toward de Brack's "Cavalry Outpost Duties" than Wittgenstein's "The Blue and Brown Books" or even Descartes "Discourse on Method", at least I know they existed, like Kant, or Rorty, or Shopenauer.

In the one philosophy course I took (sorry Grim), I actually read Aristotle and Plato, and we discussed some of the other Ancient schools like the Cynics, Stoics, Epicureans, Pythagoreans etc...which is probably where I heard of Epictetus, and picked up a used copy of the Enchridion, just to have it, but, like Frederick the Great, I ended up taking it with me everywhere for the rest of my life.

I guess what is bothering me is that I see this lady as a symptom of modern academia, where they seem to know and write more and more about less and less.

To Stutter

A philosopher with a significant stutter considers the problems it creates in his everyday life.

Still Trying To Win 'The Narrative'

Truth is a force multiplier in information warfare, but I guess some people would prefer to multiply their efforts instead.

Time for a New CCC?

Will there be too many construction jobs in America soon?
[O]ne of the concerns to keep in mind as we prepare for four years of construction is that any massive government effort, particularly at a time when demand isn’t so depressed, could crowd out private activity. If all the capable skilled labor is being put on government projects (and, thanks to current federal law, paid at prevailing union wages in big cities), there won’t be many people left to build houses and private-sector buildings. Those who are left will command high salaries, which sounds like a good thing but could also discourage private firms from even building at all.

As Congress and the president-elect prepare for a big infrastructure push, they would do well to keep these issues in mind. Construction is a highly cyclical industry, and the federal government is preparing to get involved at a time when labor supply is low and private sector demand is rising. To avoid a major shortage, more skilled laborers will have to enter the market.
As I have often rehearsed here, once upon a time I worked on a documentary film about the Civilian Conservation Corps. The men we interviewed had all served on a CCC project rebuilding Fort Pulaski, a brickwork fortress on the Savannah river very briefly used by Confederate troops (it turned out that the brickwork fortifications, the latest thing going just a few years earlier, were completely outclassed by the new rifled naval guns). They had then served in separate units in WWII. Some of them fought all across North Africa and Europe. Others fought in Italy. One was a prisoner of war for most of the conflict.

All of them said the same thing, though: the CCC had been the second best experience of their lives, after being in the war.

Of all of FDR's programs, the CCC was the one that seems to have done the most good. There are many lasting monuments up and down Appalachia. It took a whole generation of young men for whom there was no work and taught them, under Army discipline, the skills they would need to flourish later. It gave them a sense of purpose in the moment, and lasting accomplishment for the rest of their lives.

Such a program would address the concern about the government market crowding out skilled labor from private construction in two ways. First, it would in fact introduce new skilled labor to the market. Second, since it would begin with unskilled laborers, it would not need to pay such high rates as to crowd out private actors. Indeed, the commitment to camp life under military discipline would help ensure that older workers with existing skills remained in the private sector.

As a supporter of the Tenth Amendment, I would prefer this to be done by the states instead of the Federal government, of course. There is no explicit Constitutional authority for such a program in the Constitution, making it properly a state-level responsibility. But that is true for these infrastructure programs in general, however they are done.


The Islamic State has developed a new, incredibly effective way to safeguard their communications, according to intelligence sources. By putting the phrase “Star Wars Spoiler” in message headers, the group has essentially eliminated any chance of their messages being read by United States intelligence services even if they are intercepted....

“*STAR WARS SPOILER:* We will be attacking FOB Alpha tomorrow from the west with 14 men at exactly 4:05 PM local time,” as one tweet said.

Meditations Missed

I don't care to notice the celebrity in question, but I think Allahpundit's examination of the more interesting questions is worth observing.
Someone whose cultural cachet doesn’t depend on being a young feminist and provocateur would have turned this into a more thoughtful bit of commentary. She’s a loud and proud abortion warrior, she says, but she’s uncomfortable (or used to be uncomfortable) with people thinking that she might have had an abortion herself. How come? Had she unconsciously adopted an unjust social stigma against abortion, as she assumes, or was she experiencing a moral intuition about abortion writ large at the thought of killing her own child? If we’re going with the stigma theory, are there any stigmas within her own in-groups that might encourage a woman to champion abortion even if she’s reluctant to do so? If so, how does that square with “choice” as the supreme virtue? Lots of fodder here for a challenging meditation on this subject. Instead she reacted in the most grotesque (yet provocative, of course) way: She wishes she had killed a baby of her own so that she wouldn’t feel the tug of that damnable stigma. It’s a perfect expression of pro-choice politics, treating a defenseless life as an instrument to express the depth of your allegiance to the tribe.
This is one of those cases in which conservatives understand the liberal position, but not vice-versa. We've all be challenged to consider whether what we take to be a moral intuition is merely a social convention (or "stigma," as Allah puts it). Isn't it possible we're being irrational? If we've been to college, we've probably had formal philosophical defenses of abortion put in front of us to consider at length. What makes a human being? What makes a person? Is it the ability to experience pain and pleasure? Is it a capacity for reason? Why consider this 'lump of cells' as worthy of rights?

The alternative meditation is not suggested. What if it is a deep moral intuition, this uneasiness with killing an innocent human life? Does that mean anything? Should it?

Half-Marks for Mrs. Obama

On the one hand, it's great to hear that she'll "be there" for the "next commander in chief." On the other hand:
“Because no matter how we felt going into it, it is important for the health of this nation that we support the commander in chief,” she said, still refusing to use Trump’s name. “Wasn’t done when my husband took office, but we’re going high, and this is what’s best for the country. So we are gonna be there for the next president and do whatever we have to do to make sure that he is successful because if he succeeds, we all succeed.”
I don't think it's at all fair to say that it 'wasn't done when my husband took office.' I remember being in Iraq on 20 January 2009, and we took down George W. Bush's picture from the HQ building and replaced it with Barack Obama's picture. Some, I might add, were quite eager for the replacement. Others were kind of sad about it. Nevertheless, everyone carried on carrying out orders just the same as before.

A Wonderful Essay on Re-Reading

Hat tip to Arts & Letters Daily. The essay is on the ways in which one changes as a reader between 25 and 65. There is the aspect of learning to recognize what is not really such great art:
Perhaps, when you first read them you were only pretending to admire what you’d been told to admire. But also your tastes change. For instance, at 25 I was more open to writers telling me how to live and how to think; by 65 I had come to dislike didacticism. I don’t want to be told how to think and how to live by, say, Bernard Shaw, or D H Lawrence or the later Tolstoy. I don’t like art – especially theatrical art – whose function seems to be to reassure us that we are on the right side. Sitting there complacently agreeing with a playwright that war is bad, that capitalism is bad, that bad people are bad. “You don’t make art out of good intentions,” is one of Flaubert’s wiser pronouncements.
But then there is also the discovery of the right way to understand a writer you had dismissed at first. In this case, E. M. Forster.
So what made me change my mind? It began from a quite unexpected source, an anthology of food writing. There I came across Forster’s description of the breakfast he was served on an early-morning boat train to London in the 1930s.
It is a wakening that I doubly recognize from Chesterton. First, because I had part of the experience myself. The first of Chesterton's works I encountered was The Ballad of the White Horse, which struck me as a grand poem of battle with some annoying and distracting straying into Christian theology. On repeated re-readings, I came to recognize that the "strays" were really the main point of the work; and finally, I realized that they were not only the heart of the work, but the place where the greatest insight and meaning were to be found.

But I also recognize it from something Chesterton himself wrote.
With all this human experience, allied with the Christian authority, I simply conclude that I am wrong, and the church right; or rather that I am defective, while the church is universal. It takes all sorts to make a church; she does not ask me to be celibate. But the fact that I have no appreciation of the celibates, I accept like the fact that I have no ear for music. The best human experience is against me, as it is on the subject of Bach. Celibacy is one flower in my father's garden, of which I have not been told the sweet or terrible name. But I may be told it any day.
One day, on one re-reading, the author of the essay found a sweet and terrible name in an anthology of food writing. So we might also, and in quite unexpected places.

Brian Kemp Means Business

Georgia's Secretary of State has decided to make his name on this DHS hacking thing. On his campaign website:
Fellow Georgians,

An IP address associated with the Department of Homeland Security made numerous unauthorized and unsuccessful attempts to breach the firewall protecting Georgia’s databases. To date, no one from DHS can tell me why.

I sent a letter to President-elect Donald Trump and asked him to investigate the Department of Homeland Security immediately after he takes office. We deserve answers and those responsible for these failed cyber hacks must be held responsible for their dangerous behavior.

Sign the petition to join me in demanding the truth from DHS. Together, we can keep our data safe and our state strong.


Brian Kemp
Secretary of State

Electoral College Votes, Donald Trump to be President

It's over. Only 2 Trump electors defected, half as many as defected from Clinton.

A Lighter Story

Young man decides to join the Marines, just like his old man. Old man was a Drill Instructor. Young man gets to boot camp, where his Drill Instructor discovers that the young man under his care is the son of his own former Drill Instructor.

Who'd Have Thought the Electoral College Would Be the Bottom Story of the Day?

A Nice-style truck attack on a Christmas market in Berlin kills nine, injures 50.

A Faithless Elector

In Minnesota, one elector refused to vote as required by law -- no vote for Hillary Clinton! There will be no outcome on the final tally, though, as the elector was replaced by an alternate who was willing.

UPDATE: Looks like several of Clinton's electors have defected: three who I gather wanted to vote for Bernie Sanders (two apparently changed their minds, and the third was replaced as mentioned above), three to Colin Powell, and one to Faith Spotted Eagle (a Keystone pipeline protest leader).


Russian ambassador shot in Ankara, Turkey, reportedly by a gunman yelling about Aleppo.

UPDATE: The ambassador is dead. The gunman yelled "Allahu Akbar" and about Aleppo. Look for Turkey to join Russia's war effort in Syria, fracturing NATO's commitments and cementing Russia's strategic gains.

UPDATE: Conveniently, Russia and Turkey agreed last week on the way forward in Syria.
President Vladimir Putin said he and his Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erdogan are working to organize a new series of Syrian peace talks without the involvement of the United States or the United Nations.

In a snub to Washington, Putin made clear on Friday that the initiative was the sole preserve of Moscow and Turkey and that the peace talks, if they happened, would be in addition to intermittent U.N.-brokered negotiations in Geneva.

Anarchy in the UK

Well, insofar as they have ant colonies, at least.
We know now that ants do not perform as specialised factory workers. Instead ants switch tasks. An ant’s role changes as it grows older and as changing conditions shift the colony’s needs. An ant that feeds the larvae one week might go out to get food the next. Yet in an ant colony, no one is in charge or tells another what to do. So what determines which ant does which task, and when ants switch roles?

The colony is not a monarchy. The queen merely lays the eggs. Like many natural systems without central control, ant societies are in fact organised not by division of labour but by a distributed process, in which an ant’s social role is a response to interactions with other ants.

There Is Already Plenty of Evidence in the Clear

Russian involvement should be proven by declassifying the CIA's findings, say many on the Left. I've been arguing that, just because we take the threat seriously, we should not expose our sources and methods. Daveed Gartenstein-Ross (h/t Wretchard) points out that there is already plenty in the public space to show the involvement of Russian hacking organizations.

Even if Russian propaganda operations are at most a marginal concern vis a vis our elections, it doesn't make any sense to help them out by getting all panicky and putting everything we have in the clear. When it's dangerous, that's just when it's most important to relax.

What to do in Syria?

A US Army planner writes up two options that have been widely discussed by politicians here in America: the No Fly Zone, and removing Assad from power. Of the first:
There would be little gain from establishing a no-fly zone in Syria. Not only would the immediate risks outweigh any perceived gains in the long-term but it would not necessarily help those people still trapped inside Aleppo or other population centers.
That's quite right, I think. Of the second:
U.S. involvement would increase tensions with not only Russia and other regional actors but would embroil U.S. forces in another possibly decade-long occupation and stability operation. More civilians, not less, may be caught up in the post-Assad violence that would certainly hamper efforts at rebuilding.
Certainly if we ended up in a proxy war with Iran (unmentioned, but a major player on the ground in Syria) and Russia, the odds of a long period of "post-Assad violence" that cost a lot of civilian lives is high. It would also cost a lot of American lives.

The piece concludes, "Recommendation: None."


Susan McWilliams, grandchild of The Nation's editor who 50 years ago commissioned the piece that became Hunter S. Thompson's Hell's Angels, has gotten the magazine to publish a full-length rumination on the book's relationship to Donald Trump.

No, really.
I had long known that Hell’s Angels was a political book. Even so, I was surprised, when I finally picked it up a few years ago, by how prophetic Thompson is and how eerily he anticipates 21st-century American politics. This year, when people asked me what I thought of the election, I kept telling them to read Hell’s Angels.

Most people read Hell’s Angels for the lurid stories of sex and drugs. But that misses the point entirely. What’s truly shocking about reading the book today is how well Thompson foresaw the retaliatory, right-wing politics that now goes by the name of Trumpism. After following the motorcycle guys around for months, Thompson concluded that the most striking thing about them was not their hedonism but their “ethic of total retaliation” against a technologically advanced and economically changing America in which they felt they’d been counted out and left behind. Thompson saw the appeal of that retaliatory ethic. He claimed that a small part of every human being longs to burn it all down, especially when faced with great and impersonal powers that seem hostile to your very existence. In the United States, a place of ever greater and more impersonal powers, the ethic of total retaliation was likely to catch on.

What made that outcome almost certain, Thompson thought, was the obliviousness of Berkeley, California, types who, from the safety of their cocktail parties, imagined that they understood and represented the downtrodden. The Berkeley types, Thompson thought, were not going to realize how presumptuous they had been until the downtrodden broke into one of those cocktail parties and embarked on a campaign of rape, pillage, and slaughter. For Thompson, the Angels weren’t important because they heralded a new movement of cultural hedonism, but because they were the advance guard for a new kind of right-wing politics. As Thompson presciently wrote in the Nation piece he later expanded on in Hell’s Angels, that kind of politics is “nearly impossible to deal with” using reason or empathy or awareness-raising or any of the other favorite tools of the left.
So, let me take this seriously long enough to ask a follow-on question. How many times in 50 years have 'the motorcycle guys' broken into a cocktail party for a campaign of rape, pillage, and slaughter? Am I right in thinking the answer to that question is "Never, not even one time"?

In Pennsylvania, meanwhile, plainclothes state police have been detailed to protect the lives of the state's 20 electors. You might want to re-examine which set of fears deserve your first attention.

News from Tintagel

A royal palace discovered by archaeologists dates to the era when Arthur is supposed to have been born there. Roman pottery and other finds support the dating.

If you're not interested in archaeology, though, you may still want to click through to see the new statue of Arthur. It's artistically interesting.

From the Duffel Blog

Headline: "Pentagon officials fear ISIS militants now armed with reflective belts."

Oh no!

RT Is Just Having Fun With This Now

Headline: "Revealed! Putin personally hacked DNC from surveillance aircraft with bear on board."

A robot bear.

While We're on the Topic of the Irish and Occasions


Love the pipes on that one. It's probably a bit odd, but I love both of these songs.

Ol' St. Nick

I posted about him back on his feast day that one of the things he is known for is decking the heretic Arius. Mississippi kindly linked the following in the comments, but I am just now getting around to posting them:

Why isn't the the patron saint of pugilists, again?

Actually, just today I was reading about saints and I started to wonder, where did this "patron saint of X" idea come from?