Einar Tambarskelver

For Einar Tambarskelver:

This evening my son asked me to read to him about a bowman, and so I took down my copy of the Heimskringla, and read him this:


Einar Tambarskelver, one of the sharpest of bowshooters, stood by
the mast, and shot with his bow. Einar shot an arrow at Earl
Eirik, which hit the tiller end just above the earl's head so
hard that it entered the wood up to the arrow-shaft. The earl
looked that way, and asked if they knew who had shot; and at the
same moment another arrow flew between his hand and his side, and
into the stuffing of the chief's stool, so that the barb stood
far out on the other side. Then said the earl to a man called
Fin, -- but some say he was of Fin (Laplander) race, and was a
superior archer, -- "Shoot that tall man by the mast." Fin shot;
and the arrow hit the middle of Einar's bow just at the moment
that Einar was drawing it, and the bow was split in two parts.

"What is that," cried King Olaf, "that broke with such a noise?"

"Norway, king, from thy hands," cried Einar.

"No! not quite so much as that," says the king; "take my bow,
and shoot," flinging the bow to him.

Einar took the bow, and drew it over the head of the arrow. "Too
weak, too weak," said he, "for the bow of a mighty king!" and,
throwing the bow aside, he took sword and shield, and fought


The king stood on the gangways of the Long Serpent. and shot the
greater part of the day; sometimes with the bow, sometimes with
the spear, and always throwing two spears at once. He looked
down over the ship's sides, and saw that his men struck briskly
with their swords, and yet wounded but seldom. Then he called
aloud, "Why do ye strike so gently that ye seldom cut?" One
among the people answered, "The swords are blunt and full of
notches." Then the king went down into the forehold, opened the
chest under the throne, and took out many sharp swords, which he
handed to his men; but as he stretched down his right hand with
them, some observed that blood was running down under his steel
glove, but no one knew where he was wounded.


Desperate was the defence in the Serpent, and there was the
heaviest destruction of men done by the forecastle crew, and
those of the forehold, for in both places the men were chosen
men, and the ship was highest, but in the middle of the ship the
people were thinned. Now when Earl Eirik saw there were but few
people remaining beside the ship's mast, he determined to board;
and he entered the Serpent with four others. Then came Hyrning,
the king's brother-in-law, and some others against him, and there
was the most severe combat; and at last the earl was forced to
leap back on board his own ship again, and some who had
accompanied him were killed, and others wounded. Thord
Kolbeinson alludes to this: --

"On Odin's deck, all wet with blood,
The helm-adorned hero stood;
And gallant Hyrning honour gained,
Clearing all round with sword deep stained.
The high mountain peaks shall fall,
Ere men forget this to recall."
Once, long ago, I told you that someone had bought my son this Viking ship model from Playmobil. We had it out tonight, so that during the course of the ship battle I could show him where each point of action was happening on the ship, and he could visualize the fight between King Olav and the Jarl.

He made me read the entire rest of the saga of King Olav Trygvasson, and then asked me to read the next saga (which, being the Saga of St. Olav, would take a week). I told him I would read him more later, but for now, I wanted him to reflect on the great archer, Einar Tambarskelver, and the great fight, and other things. If I read on he would forget, but I hope he will remember.

Here is something to remember too: the way the war ended.
The earls Eirik and Svein both
allowed themselves to be baptized, and took up the true faith;
but as long as they ruled in Norway they allowed every one to do
as he pleased in holding by his Christianity. But, on the other
hand, they held fast by the old laws, and all the old rights and
customs of the land, and were excellent men and good rulers.
It is in this way -- in allowing for differences, and showing respect for the several traditions -- that peace was made for a time in Norway, among a fighting folk.

Army on GW

The Army on Global Warming:

Dr. Bruce West, a chief scientist with the Mathematical and Information Science Directorate with the Army Research Office, gave a DOD Roundtable on Global Warming the other day. AgainI was invited to this Roundtable, but didn't attend. I did look up the transcript to see what the fellow had to say, though.

Short version: he thinks it's the sun. There's quite a bit more, for those of you who are following the debate closely.

Obama Posters

The Prophet Claim: Visual Aids

I won't include the famous "dare we say it?" one of Obama as Jesus rising from the water, with a unicorn behind him, because it was intended as semi-ironic. Let's just look at a few of the actually-deployed posters for Obama for President.

Now, reread that excerpt from his speech, below. He promises literally to slow the rise of the oceans, and literally to "heal the planet."

This is why I say that this is really creepy. It's also why I say that, if he ends up getting hammered with claims of being a false prophet -- complete with quotes from Revelations or elsewhere in the Bible -- he's going to deserve it. If you run as a prophet, you're opening yourself to claims that you're a false one.

Being perceived as a false prophet has consequences.

There are plenty of people out there trying to decipher Revelations. And a false prophet figure fits very, very well into a lot of end-times talk.

More than likely [the False Prophet] is simply an important religious figure representing a rising religious and ecclesiastical movement which this second beast and Satan will use to promote the beast out of the sea (cf. 17:7, 15-16)... Walvoord says, “The identification of the second beast as the head of the apostate church is indicated in many ways in the book of Revelation.”
It would be terrifyingly easy to put those posters, and that speech, into the frame of "a rising religious movement" of "an apostate church," headed by "a false prophet" in league with Satan himself.

And that's without the Lightwalker talk. That's just judging from the campaign's posters and Obama's speech.

This is a serious business. I'm the first one to put it in these terms, but I won't be the last one if this doesn't stop. The next one may be someone who isn't just familiar with Revelations, but has faith in his own capacity to interpret it -- and preach it.

You don't want this.

UPDATE: By the way, did you know that the Left Behind series sold 65 million copies?

Clint Eastwood

On Clint Eastwood:

To be read with yesterday's post, also on cinema, this interview:

Sergio Leone, who directed Eastwood in his breakthrough role in the Man With No Name trilogy of spaghetti westerns, said he liked the actor because he had only two expressions: "one with the hat, one without it".


A Confession:

This kind of thing is really starting to bother me.

Many spiritually advanced people I know (not coweringly religious, mind you, but deeply spiritual) identify Obama as a Lightworker, that rare kind of attuned being who has the ability to lead us not merely to new foreign policies or health care plans or whatnot, but who can actually help usher in a new way of being on the planet, of relating and connecting and engaging with this bizarre earthly experiment. These kinds of people actually help us evolve. They are philosophers and peacemakers of a very high order, and they speak not just to reason or emotion, but to the soul.

The unusual thing is, true Lightworkers almost never appear on such a brutal, spiritually demeaning stage as national politics. This is why Obama is so rare.
"Coweringly religious"?

Also this kind of thing:
...I am absolutely certain that generations from now, we will be able to look back and tell our children that this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal...
Holy crap, people. Get hold of yourselves.

Also: Beware. This language is more dangerous than you believe it to be. I realize we've been told that the Rev. Mr. Wright spoke in the prophetic tradition; perhaps Obama learned the lingo from him.

Nevertheless, while it may appeal to some -- those "deeply spiritual" people who aren't "coweringly religious" -- there is a broader tradition that has quite a bit to say about those who falsely claim the right to speak as prophets.
And the sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared.

And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet.

For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.
It would take not one minute's work to fit that verse to Obama: a false prophet, promising miracles, "going forth to the kings of the earth" and the "kings of the east" (without preconditions!) to gather them to battle by the drying Euphrates. With Iran developing nuclear weapons, many minds would find it no stretch to invoke "the great day of God Almighty." I place no faith in any human reading of the Revelation of St. John the Divine -- but beware, because you are asking for one.

You do not want what you are buying. If Obama is to be judged as a man, he should speak as a man. If he speaks as a prophet, it is on his own head if he is judged a false one.

Bad Eagle Film

"Daughter of Dawn"

It's been a while since we looked in on Bad Eagle. Dr. David Yeagley, proudly of the Commanche Nation, was asked to compose a soundtrack for a silent film from 1920.

The film, Daughter of Dawn, was made by Norbert Miles, assisted by Charles Simone. It is based on legend and fiction put together in a story by R. E. Banks, who is identified as a person who “lived among the Indians” for twenty-five years. This implies that Banks knew the sons of the free warriors. The Oklahoma Historical Society purchased the film from a private owner. The movie was never released in Hollywood, but instead has remained obscure for a century now. Plans are to release a DVD with music sound track within a year.

The film is an Indian story, and the actors are all Indian. There are Comanche and Kiowa Indians alive today who are the descendents and family of actors in the movie. Saupitty, Lebarr, Toyebo, Cozad, Yellow Wolf, and Parker are among the names of the families represented in the film. It is the first full-length feature using all Indian actors, and portrays an Indian story. It was filmed in the Wichita Mountains, and includes an actual herd of buffalo and a hunt. The Indians ride bare-back, of course, and their clothing and mannerisms are surely authentic. 1920 is not far removed from the days of the free warriors.
This should be of interest to us, not only for the subject matter, but because of the question of the music. We've talked a lot lately about problems of modern music, and Eric has rightly mentioned the connection to the movie industry. Dr. Yeagley discusses what it is like to compose for a silent film:
Ted Turner has devised a way to get young composers to write movie scores for basically nothing.

He holds a contest for young composers to write music scores for silent movies. There is a special night, every week, during which Turner's silent movies are shown.

Most of these have newly composed scores. They are very creative and interesting. I was completely unaware of this new composer/movie fad until a few months after I had already composed many pages of my score.

I really am doing something different. I'm writing symphony music. I'm not depicting the movie image with imitative sounds.

It has been a strange and wonderful experience, to write music for a film. The silent film is not a modern thing, really. It movies generally very quickly, and this was part of the way interest was held.

To put rich, dramatic, romantic music to an old silent film is like putting a tuxedo on a skeleton. There are times when you can do it, but, generally, the old silent films don't allow it. It is inappropriate.

Now, you can use full orchestra, any time you want. It isn't the full orchestra, but the music, that determines propriety.


Very odd experience, actually.

It is not a sonata form, not a fugue, not a minuette, not scherzo, not a rondeau. What is it?

A continuum of symphonic expression. I've never written music before that is not in a form. I'm a great formalist. I love the invention of form, the shape, the construct, the architecture.

This is none of that. The movie is the form. I follow the movie. I should say, this is a most humble enterprise. Thus, the challenge!
I look forward to the opportunity to view the film, and hear the results.
Shattered Sword.

To day is June 5. 66 years ago today, the battle of Midway had its most crucial 10 minutes: Between 10:20 and 10:30, Dauntless Dive Bombers from the US Carriers Yorktown and Enterprise, Put out of action 3 of the 4 Japanese carriers the Imperial Japanese Navy brought to the battle of Midway.

Steeljaw Scribe (via OPFOR) has a lessons learned post. Which needs to be developed a little.

In racing there is a saying - ‘luck is where preparation meets opportunity’ Perhaps there is no truer an example than the Battle of Midway. Popular literature seems to emphasize the American forces stumbling into a heaven-sent scenario of laden carrier decks and little to no opposition to the dive bombers, while giving short shrift to the preparation that enabled them to make use of that opportunity. How so?

--First of all, the take away from many (if not most) wars is that those that make the fewest mistakes win. That needs to be remembered as both the Japanese and Americans made several mistakes. Obviously, the Japanese made worse ones.

COMINT: Communications Intelligence - the US code breakers labored mightily to figure out what the IJN was up to. Were it not for their efforts prior to Midway, and some particularly inspired thinking and risk taking, the US may well have fallen for the feint up to Alaska and end up caught in the trap laid by Yamamoto.

Its doubtful that the US would have diverted more than what was for the Aleutian operations. The Japanese, however, turned what was supposed to be a diversion into a full fledged operation, drawing off resources better used elsewhere, including 2 light carriers commited, and a further 3 others earmarked, but ultimately not sent. Think about that for a bit. 5 carriers that could have been used at Midway were not. But make no mistake, the breaking of the Japanese codes made the battle possible.

Damage Control: Had the crew of the Yorktown not been so proficient in DC, particularly something as seemingly mundane as draining the avgas lines and filling them with inert gas prior to the battle of Coral Sea, the Yorktown may very well have been lost, leaving CINCPAC with only two carriers facing four, forcing a different battle plan. Conversely, the almost lackadaisical approach the Japanese took in repairing Shokaku’s damage or replinishing Zuikaku’s air wing and repairing her light damage from Coral Sea’s action ensured their nonavailability for Midway, keeping the balance of forces on a razor’s edge.

The crew of the Yorktown did that at Coral sea, but the crew of the Lexington did not. (I don't know about the Langely). While it seems a 'mundane' thing, its clear that other ships in the US Navy, (never mind the Japanese) weren't either as talented, trained or lucky as the Yorktown's crew, and its hard to account for that.

Training: The contrast between USN and USMC effectiveness in employing dive bombers at Midway was signatory. Using the same platform (SBD-3’s) USN pilots scored major hits while minimizing losses to AAA and fighters, whereas the Marines suffered significant losses for little, if any gain. The difference? Tactics, training and procedures or TTP (yes, we know -ugh, one of those modern terms…) - the Navy employed steep, usually 70-degree, dives on the target whereas the Marines used much shallower, gliding approaches. The former minimizes your exposure time and profile to AAA and fighters while increasing the likelihood of a hit. However, it requires considerable practice at obtaining the proper dive angle, avoiding target fixation and knowing how/when to pullout of the dive and avoid over-stressing the airframe. Lots of practice, underscoring the maxim about training like you are going to fight…

Training requires time, which the unfortunate USMC aviators didn't have. Henderson's flight group was probably the rawest in the battle, and it showed. Some of them had not even flown an SBD until a few days previously, and more than half the unit had only joined a few days before. Henderson tried what he thought his men could do, and if there's a fault, its sending untrained men into combat. But you go to war with what you have. Other measures, such as the use of B-17's and the rigging of torpedoes on B-26 Maurader medium bombers were a clear sign of desperation.

Employment of forces: The Japanese were the first to employ massed striking power using carriers and the strike at Pearl (and subsequent actions through SE Asia and the IO) validated the philosophy. The problem was the Japanese failed to comprehend the inherent flexibility of carrier-based air and thus eschewed opportunities to utilize it in other scenarios, such as scouting, which in turn, led to less than robust search plans and reliance on out-dated search aircraft and methodologies. Curiously, the Japanese broke this rule in planning the Aleutian invasion, diverting forces on a mission of questionable value and success for territory that would prove to be exceptionally harsh on man and machine while yielding little, if any strategic value outside of propaganda for an overly wrought plan of entrapment. This leads to questions of planning…

Pursuant to the point above, some 50 odd Japanese ships were detailed to the first phase of the Aluetian campaign, that obviously could have been used elsewhere. But the other thing to remember with 20-20 hindsight is that so far, the entire war had been going Japan's way. Its hard to call something outmoded or ill thought out if it seems to be working. The destruction heaped on the American Pacific fleet at Pearl Harbor forced the US Navy to instantly rethink how to fight--because it didn't have its battleships anymore. That still didn't stop hare-brained schemes like Doolittle raid, which risked two of the four carriers that the US had in the Pacific. It worked, so one sees no real criticism of it, but what were they thinking? The best Nimitz could think of for a while was sending the carriers out on raids, which again, worked out in the end, but had no guarantee that they would.

Planning/Command: In studied contrast to the run-up at Pearl, Japanese planning for Midway was poorly thought out, egregiously evaluated and gamed and haphazardly executed (cf: the entire submarine picket plan). Indeed, it was put together and executed in such a toxic atmosphere of arrogance and bluster that even when one of the final wargame sessions showed American forces gaining an upper-hand because of gaps in the air search pattern, referees for the wargame manipulated the environment and other factors to bring about a successful conclusion for Kido Butai. As for dealing with changing factors at sea, commanders were loath to step outside the boundaries of the plan and demonstrate initiative. In studied contrast were the actions of the Americans from Nimitz’s orders based on calculated risk to Dick Best’s last minute change in targets.

Best was supposed to attackt he Akagi in the first place. Best's change came from ill coordination/communication between the American flight groups, --bombing six and scounting six ended up simultaneously attacking the Kaga, leaving both the Akagi unmolested, and yes, Best attacked the Akagi with 3 planes out which one lucky bomb hit, which ultimately doomed the Akagi. He could have missed. Infact, he actually did not attack according Wade McClusky's instructions, (which weren't to doctrine) and instead of sending Bombing 6 at the Akagi as instructed, Best continued attacking the Kaga--only at the last second after seeing McClusky and Scouting 6 dive on Kaga, along with the rest of Bombing 6, did Best and two other planes actually pull out of their dives and attack the Akagi. It sort of puts the lie to the idea that it was inspired initiative. In reality, it was nearly blind adherence to doctrine.

The entire attack ought to have been a study in how *not* to do it, given the horrible coordination between the torpedo and bombing squadrons, and the losses suffered. The Hornet's bombing assets did not even manage to make it into battle. --If they had, perhaps the Hiryu might have been hit at the same time as the Kaga, Akagi and Soryu, and the Yorktown would not have been hit in the Japanese counterstrike from the Hiryu later that day.

The Americans attacked the Japanese piece-meal from 0700 that morning, with everything from B-17's to B-26's (jury rigged with torpedoes!), Henderson's ill-trained Marines and of course all the doomed carrier torpedo squadrons. While this kept the Japanese off balance, and contributed to the success of the divebombing attacks, It wasn't planned that way, it just worked out that way. We were lucky.

While the Japanese planning was sub-par for Midway, one could argue that the entire war was a really bad idea in the first place, and any tactical success was not, in the end, going to help the Japanese out of their predicament. The Japanese had indeed 'run wild' for six months, but ill will between the Japanese Army and Navy precluded any sort of efficiencies that would be required for the war. The entire Guadalcanal campaign only underscored this.

One could make the same analogy with Bin Laden and Al-Queda, which while achieving a spectacular tactical success on 9/11, committed a monumental strategic blunder, which has essentially doomed them.

Even the US was dogged with the machinations of MacArthur vs. Nimitz and the directions of the American campaigns in the Pacific. This also highlights the difficulty of such fighting such a big war.

Luck indeed smiled on the Americans that day, but she did not grab them by the hand (or scruff of the neck) and tell them what must be done in PowerPoint bulletized format. She merely opened the door, a crack, and offered a fleeting moment to change the course of the battle…the Americans grasped it and changed the direction of the war. Review the list above - these are timeless lessons learned, every bit as applicable today as they were 66 years ago. My observations lead me to believe we are ignoring them at our future peril. - SJS

I am not sure what's being ignored here, not having read the rest of SJS's blog, but I'm not certain things are being ignored the way he implies.

Still, as Rumsfeld so elequently put it:

As we know,
There are known knowns.
There are things we know we know.
We also know
There are known unknowns.
That is to say
We know there are some things
We do not know.
But there are also unknown unknowns,
The ones we don't know
We don't know.

And yes, we need to keep thinking about the last.
Don't piss off the boss.
WASHINGTON, June 5, 2008 – Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates today announced the resignations of Air Force Secretary Michael W. Wynne and Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley following an investigation revealing a decline in the Air Force's nuclear program focus, performance and effective leadership.

Wired magazine's DANGER ROOM has a little background:
The move, initially reported by Inside Defense and Air Force Times, isn't exactly a shocker. The Air Force has come under fire for everything from mishandling nukes to misleading ad campaigns to missing out on the importance of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Most importantly, the Air Force's leadership has been on the brink of open conflict for months with Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England. That's because in the halls of the Air Force's chiefs, the talk has been largely about the threats posed by China and a resurgent Russia. Gates wanted the service to actually focus on the wars at hand, in Iraq and Afghanistan. "For much of the past year I’ve been trying to concentrate the minds and energies of the defense establishment on the current needs and current conflicts," he told the Heritage Foundation. "In short, to ensure that all parts of the Defense Department are, in fact, at war."

It isn't the cold war anymore, and I think the Air Force is chafing at the role of essentially being air-borne artillery.

Black Swans

Black Swans:

An interview with Nassim Nicholas Taleb, at The Times of London. He is one of those deeply eccentric people who demonstrates that eccentricity can be a mark of a very clear sight, and a willingness to see the world for what it is.

For the non-mathematician, probability is an indecipherably complex field. But Taleb makes it easy by proving all the mathematics wrong. Let me introduce you to Brooklyn-born Fat Tony and academically inclined Dr John, two of Taleb’s creations. You toss a coin 40 times and it comes up heads every time. What is the chance of it coming up heads the 41st time? Dr John gives the answer drummed into the heads of every statistic student: 50/50. Fat Tony shakes his head and says the chances are no more than 1%. “You are either full of crap,” he says, “or a pure sucker to buy that 50% business. The coin gotta be loaded.”

The chances of a coin coming up heads 41 times are so small as to be effectively impossible in this universe. It is far, far more likely that somebody is cheating. Fat Tony wins. Dr John is the sucker. And the one thing that drives Taleb more than anything else is the determination not to be a sucker. Dr John is the economist or banker who thinks he can manage risk through mathematics. Fat Tony relies only on what happens in the real world.
Mathematics is the most certain of the sciences; it is the one of the sciences where you can be sure you have the right answer. What people forget, however, is why that is so.

The reason there is a right answer is that mathematics is a science of models that approximate reality. It is not reality itself. When you move into reality as it is, even the hardest science -- physics, say -- becomes an exercise in probability at best.

I say, "at best," because there is also the problem of the Black Swan: of something in reality you've never encountered before. It can't figure into your calculations, because you have no way to know it exists. There are such things in the world as we have never imagined, waiting in the dark.
They are also Christian – Greek Orthodox. Startlingly, this great sceptic, this non-guru who believes in nothing, is still a practising Christian. He regards with some contempt the militant atheism movement led by Richard Dawkins.

“Scientists don’t know what they are talking about when they talk about religion. Religion has nothing to do with belief, and I don’t believe it has any negative impact on people’s lives outside of intolerance. Why do I go to church? It’s like asking, why did you marry that woman? You make up reasons, but it’s probably just smell. I love the smell of candles. It’s an aesthetic thing.”

Take away religion, he says, and people start believing in nationalism, which has killed far more people. Religion is also a good way of handling uncertainty. It lowers blood pressure. He’s convinced that religious people take fewer financial risks.

He was educated at a French school. Three traditions formed him: Greek Orthodox, French Catholic and Arab. They also taught him to disbelieve conventional wisdom. Each tradition had a different history of the crusades, utterly different. This led him to disbelieve historians almost as much as he does bankers.
The ideal thing to do is to learn each of the three histories of the Crusades, and sort out as best you can what is most likely to have happened. The fact of the three histories, though, is something to keep in mind.

The way to visualize these three histories is with the events they all three experienced as a point in the center of a diagram. Stretching out from this point are three separate fields, each of which is full of additional data. There are things that the Greeks do not know about that the French thought were very important to the story. There are things that the Levantines found central that never entered the consciousness of the French knights.

If what you want to do is sort out a 'most likely course' of what happened, you can probably do that by learning the three cultures and, therefore, the contents of each of the three backfields. Then, you can compare the accounts and triangulate the "truth position" of any given claim located in that center point, the Crusades themselves. You'll be able to do this with greater accuracy than if you had known only one tradition.

You are still doing probability work. You must always keep in front of your eyes that you aren't really right. You've only sorted out what is most likely.

As Fat Tony would say, "most likely" is the way to bet. Just understand that you can still lose, once in a while, on what seems like a sure thing.

FT Greyhawk

Fort Greyhawk:

I've been out of town for a few days, enjoying the gracious -- indeed, the extravagant -- hospitality of Mr. & Mrs. Greyhawk. I'm not at liberty to reveal the secret location of their hidden fort. Suffice to say, they have a beautiful home in a lovely part of the world, and they receive their guests kindly.