Sword Welding

An article explains the spread of bronze sword making techniques across Europe. It also makes some guesses about fighting techniques.
Unlike axes, spears, or arrows, “swords are the first objects invented purely to kill someone,” says University of Göttingen archaeologist Raphael Hermann, who led the new study. Bronze swords—used across Europe from 1600 B.C.E. to 600 C.E.—were made of a mixture of copper and tin, which was softer and harder to repair than later iron weapons. That meant Bronze Age weapons and fighting techniques had to be adapted to the metal’s properties. “Use them in a clumsy way, and you’ll destroy them,” says Barry Molloy, an archaeologist at University College Dublin who was not involved in the study.

As a result, some archaeologists suggested bronze blades served a largely ceremonial purpose. At most, they argued, fighters adapted their technique to the metal’s limitations: Perhaps Bronze Age warriors actively avoided crossing swords to spare their weapons. “Stab somebody in the guts, and you won’t have a mark on your sword at all,” Hermann says....

For example, marks on the replica swords made by a technique known to medieval German duelists as versetzen, or “displacement”—locking blades in an effort to control and dominate an opponent’s weapon—were identical to distinct bulges found on swords from Bronze Age Italy and Great Britain.

Next, Hermann and colleagues put 110 Bronze Age swords from Italy and Great Britain under a microscope and cataloged more than 2500 wear marks. Wear patterns were linked to geography and time, suggesting distinct fighting styles developed over centuries, they report this month in the Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory. Displacement, for example, didn’t show up until 1300 B.C.E. and appeared in Italy several centuries before it did in Great Britain.

“In order to fight the way the marks show, there has to be a lot of training involved,” Hermann says. Because the marks are so consistent from sword to sword, they suggest different warriors weren’t swinging at random, but were using well-practiced techniques.
Our studies of fighting techniques even of steel swords in the Middle Ages -- which were quite well-made -- suggests that most parries were done with the flat rather than edge-to-edge. No surprise this would have been even truer of bronze swords.

Have you noticed the air pollution clearing up?

The Vices Around Alcohol

I think we can all appreciate this tweet:

Symptom-free viral infection

This ZeroHedge article expresses alarm about "stealth transmission," but jumps to a huge, unwarranted conclusion.  Almost all of the sailors aboard the Roosevelt have been tested, the results showing that about 600 out of 4,800 contracted the virus.  Of those, about 60% never showed any symptoms.  The article assumes this is terrible news, because it means that asymptomatic transmission is a huge, scary risk.

But I don't see that the article makes any kind of case for asymptomatic transmission; it could be that nearly all the sailors who fell ill were infected by one of the 40% who did show symptoms.  What's more, another reasonable interpretation is that we lucked out:  we may be able to get to whatever percentage of the population is required for herd immunity--I've heard estimates from 40% to 80%--with less than half of those unlucky citizens suffering so much as a sniffle.  Is it conceivable that people are contagious when asymptomatic?  Sure, we haven't ruled that out, but even if it's true, they may still be much less contagious than people with symptoms, so there remains a lot of use in checking people for fevers and quarantining them when they're spotted.  It's not uncommon for a virus to be slightly contagious when asymptomatic (or within a couple of days of becoming symptomatic) but to become wildly contagious when symptoms appear, so clamping down on people with symptoms is still effort well spent, along with tracing their contacts for the prior few days.  We may miss some Typhoid Mary's, but that doesn't mean we're utterly helpless to use testing in combination with contract tracing.  It's just not clear yet.

That means we are far from an ability to reassure people that coronavirus is perfectly risk-free, but so what?  We don't need to reach zero risk.  Not just the existence but the level of risk matters when you're considering economy-crushing curative measures.  A few people will be very unlucky about this pathogen; I don't want to be among them, nor do I want my loved ones or even remote acquaintances to be among them.  I also don't want anyone struck by lightning, but I'm not going to ask anyone to stay inside for the rest of his life to avoid it.  We need to reach a reasonable level of confidence that we know the worst damage this thing is likely to do, then take whatever steps are sensible in light of the risk.  When that happens, this really will be "sort of like the flu"--or sort of like car crashes--risks to minimize, but not at the cost of the rest of our lives and society, no matter how much we grieve for the tens of thousands of people we lose every year from the irreducible risk.

Confidence at such a level is going to take some more data about transmissibility, a grasp of what it will take to reach herd immunity, and perhaps a better understanding of why hospitals in Italy were overrun but hospitals in many other countries, like ours, were not, whether because our "inequitable" health systems are better at handling sudden emergencies, or because we're less crowded, or because doctors are getting a better handle on all kinds of potential treatments.

Update:  some even weirder numbers from a Boston homeless shelter, where 146 out of 397 residents (37%) tested positive, and 100% of the positives were asymptomatic.


Headline: “ Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer: Abortion During Coronavirus ‘Is Life Sustaining’

I mean I guess I know what she means, but man.

San Franciscan Nights

Here's a song by the Animals, of "House of the Rising Sun" fame, which I'd never heard until this week.

I went to San Francisco in 1993. It was fine, but the experience wasn't life-changing for me. I suppose it had a moment in around 1969.

It's a plan

I'm hoping this will get us back on a path where those who feel a need to shelter can continue to do so, and everyone else can ease back into society.  The President's plan puts a lot of emphasis on ensuring that the hospitals are ready to handle whatever load they're going to get.

The point of the lockdown was never advertised as eliminating the disease, only ensuring that cases didn't hit so hard and so fast that we faced the intolerable image of hospitals turning people away, or parking them helplessly in the hallways or parking lots.

“Above My Pay Grade”

The governor of New Jersey thinks the Constitution is above his.

It’s the first line in his oath.

Beds available

Whether because we overestimated the spread of infection, or because social-distancing worked, or both, we seem to have staved off the worst scenarios of overloaded hospitals.

Quality News Reporting At All Time Lows

Georgia Governor Kemp, whom I don't especially admire, made a reasonable decision to exempt anti-virus masks from Georgia's long-standing anti-masking law. That law was written for the express purpose of preventing Klan rallies designed to intimidate people.


I'm beginning to lose my commitment to trying to keep the language on this blog clean and PG-rated.


Twenty-five years old, it was late to be a great American Western. But it was.
For veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, it was their “go-to” movie, that one cassette or disc every outpost played repeatedly. Troops adopted the lingo, calling each other things like “lunger” and “law dog.” Alpha-male admirers include police officers; one pulled up his shirt to display Ringo’s likeness sewn onto his Kevlar vest. The movie has no lack of female devotees, and younger fans often tell [Johnny Ringo's actor] that they have bonded with parents and grandparents while enjoying the movie together; Tombstone now boasts three generations of fans. It’s very much one of those compulsively watchable movies that whenever you come across it on television, you wind up watching again until the end credits roll. How odd it is, then, that a movie that now seems so perfectly realized was once a patient whose heart had stopped beating and required the movie equivalent of a defibrillator to start pumping again.
It's a movie with a lot to recommend it. REBELLER has a two-part series on the hardships of shooting it; one and two.

Testing, testing

Another good Powerline analysis picks apart some of the wilder attempts to filter every controlavirus theory through the filter of "which factors might help or hurt the situation while enabling us to link them to something CheetoMan did more or less than other countries."  Germany has a surprisingly low case fatality rate.  Is it because Germany has universal care?  Then why is its rate more like ours and less like that of, say, Italy or the UK?  Is it because Germany tests a lot?  That's a tempting theory, because Trump inexplicably failed to keep the CDC and FDA from bollixing that one up by the numbers.  Anything good a bureaucrat does is courageous Resistance; anything bad is Trump's dereliction of duty.

Powerline makes the interesting suggestion that testing can work pretty well in the special case where the outbreak happens in a young healthy population, in this case returning skiers, and robust testing and contact tracing keeps infections from exploding in older, more vulnerable populations.

Testing's nice, but I'd rather see attention to treatment and vaccine development, along with new distancing protocols that are tailored carefully to protecting vulnerable populations while allowing others to get back to work.

Herd immunity vs. herd mentality

There are good reasons for and against state-mandated lockdowns.  There are no good arguments for the shoddy press coverage given to South Dakota's relatively libertarian governor.

Fake News Today

The Indispensable BB: "More Government Officials Calling For Common-Sense Religion Control."

Usually I'm content to quote the headlines. This one deserves a fuller reading.
More government officials across the country are calling for common-sense religion control.

The officials insist they don't want to ban religion entirely -- they just want some basic, common-sense laws to regulate it. From background checks to licensing requirements and forced church closures, state officials everywhere are leading the charge to implement much-needed regulations on the practice of religion.

"It's past time that we begin implementing basic, common-sense laws against potentially problematic religions," said Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear. "Nobody's coming for your religion -- we just want some safe and sane restrictions on it."
All analogies always break, but this one is fairly robust. As you would defend your faith, keep ahold of your rifle. If you have no rifle, by God go get one -- if you can still find one for sale.

Raising a Comment to a Post

Thos. wrote something that I thought deserved to be raised to the front page.
I see the present wrangling over pandemic-related issues (both epidemiologic and economic) as an indicator that we are strongly trending from a high-trust to a low-trust society.

At the (admittedly not-achievable-given-human-nature) upper bound, a high trust society would look like this: public officials and other experts would clearly lay out what they know (and don't know) about the public health threats, and the best-available understanding of how to address them -- all while trusting the public will neither ignore the possible risks, nor panic over the information. The public, on learning of the risks, would voluntarily agree to the official recommendations, even if the burden was heavy, understanding that the response required a significant public cooperation, but with the understanding that they could trust the public officials and experts to not extend those burdens any longer than necessary (and likewise trusting that no public official would make a temporary expediency into a permanent restriction on freedoms).

A low-trust society looks a lot like what we have today: Public officials and experts withholding information to avoid public panic. (Also, withholding information about mask use to protect the supply for their own use.) Using emergency declarations to further political agendas. Spreading rumors to discredit other public officials or experts. Regarding any discovered uncertainty about facts or data as proof of intentional deceit.

In short, IF we had reason to trust each other, we wouldn't need to worry that pandemic-response measures - even extreme measures - were the death knell of personal liberty. It's pretty clear that we don't live in that world anymore.
This is a very good point. It's also easier to trust when the government is asking rather than telling. I 'went in' on the seventh of March, long before there were orders to do so, because it was clearly the right thing to do. I voluntarily agreed to what were still only recommendations, and did my best to think of ways to make it work more effectively.

The harder they push, though, the less willing I am to tolerate it. It's harder to trust a government that bans your right to protest it. It's harder to trust a government that will arrest you for showing up to criticize them. The government has also been lying, as noted, about things like masks' effectiveness. They are treating us and our rights with contempt, and there is very little reason to trust anyone who holds you in contempt.

There is a great deal of damage being done here.

All Basic Rights Suspended

First religious ceremonies, now the right to peaceably assemble and petition for redress of grievances. I assume we'll be receiving orders to quarter soldiers in our home soon.

It may be unwise to assemble to protest the government, but the government cannot legitimately rule the right to protest 'non-essential.' They've done so illegitimately, and the police have made arrests and dispersed the protest.

Some Federal courts are still open; perhaps one will act to restrain the governor of North Carolina. If not, well, we aren't permitted to protest him. I suppose we could still write a sharply-worded letter.

Or, you know, do other things.

Threat levels

I'm with the Scots.

Fake News Today

BB: “Medical Experts Confirm Democrats Have Developed Herd Immunity To Sexual Assault Allegations.”


A new trade pact on the West Coast forms.

The Great Escape

As the northern hemisphere begins to emerge from the worst of the pandemic, political punditry is focusing on two issues: how to reopen the economy and how to decouple from China. The two subjects are related because a large part of the Western economy is joined at the hip with Beijing. To a substantial degree, China produces what America consumes. Each country's holdings in the other are enormous. They are bound by innumerable contracts, deals, projects and cross-posted personnel that are not easily severed.

This system of cross-dependency was consciously pursued to vaccinate the world against a repetition of the two world wars. However, globalization also significantly eroded the independence and freedom of action of individual nations, though not each to the same degree. It permitted asymmetries to arise between the more aggressive and secretive regimes at the expense of those which, perhaps naively, adhered more closely to the posted rules.

The Great Firewall of China, currency manipulation, the infiltration of network equipment, island grabbing in the South China Sea and technological espionage are examples of asymmetry which the great economic interests were willing to turn a blind eye to to preserve existing deals, though the populist uprising in the West served notice that things could not continue that way forever. When the coronavirus erupted in Wuhan in mid-December 2019 and Beijing misled the world to catastrophe, the model was no longer viable.
So what now?
Perhaps nothing will prove more difficult to salvage from the train wreck than individual rights, the fundamental building block of subsidiarity, which are being eroded at an unprecedented rate. The need to track the whereabouts of literally every citizen in the name of "contact tracing" the public means government will demand to know exactly where you've been and who you've ever met with. Scrupulous records will be kept on the public's biometric profile to make offices habitable again.
Or not. Death is preferable to the loss of liberty; and governments that insist on that deserve to be destroyed. George Washington fought his revolution during a smallpox epidemic. We don't have to accept the loss of freedom, as long as we are willing to accept the risk of death.

Stranger on the Shore

Some good un-fake news

Boris Johnson has been released from the hospital.

Easter Fake News

BB: “Roman Authorities Investigating Jesus For Violating Stay-In-Tomb Order.”

Happy Easter

A selection of verses.

Old number 236