Tasting History

Tasting History is a worthwhile YouTube channel on historical cooking. He presents historical recipes with some background and then tries them out.

Here's one for mead and one for a medieval outlaw's table.

His current medieval cooking playlist has 52 videos, and he has a lot of others as well.

War Hippies

 A band to keep an eye on?



Mirabile dictu: nobody in Western North Carolina has mentioned it to me either. I'm fielding a lot of questions about it from friends elsewhere, but locally it seems to be of no great concern. 

One of the request was from someone traveling on business in France. Did I have any advice on avoiding violence? Yeah, put "mosque" into your phone's map app, and don't go to any neighborhoods that have one. Friday afternoon is the most likely time for violence, because that's when the weekly sermons are. If you get through Friday and you're not in a neighborhood with mosques, enjoy your trip. It'll probably be all right.

That's not to say that Muslims can't, aren't, blah, blah, blah. It's just a straight risk assessment. CNN's Amanpour asked her guest if 'its possible to hold two thoughts in mind' (4:10)-- this is an Aristotelian inquiry about mental sophistication -- that the slaughter was as bad as it gets, but also that 'everyone has the right to live with rights and dignity... legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people...', etc. Sure, Muslims can aspire to political liberalism, and adopt a view of the Rights of Man and Citizen. Absolutely, if you are a political liberal, there's nothing more fundamental than the view that all people deserve dignity and rights. The question is what you do when your neighbors are not political liberals. Some neighbors don't accept that you have dignity, or even believe in political rights; and indeed, hold that it's not only fine but desirable to kill you, your children and your elderly. 

There's no logical contradiction here that would entail Aristotelian sophistication to entertain. If they were liberals, then you could live in a liberal order. Muslims can be, have been, liberals too. It only works out if that prerequisite has been satisfied. Otherwise, you're down to keeping out of the wrong neighborhoods when you can, and being well-armed when you can't. And really that's good advice anyway and all the time: Havamal 38, Lk. 22:36.


It’s made of honey.

Since I’m doing Beorn’s Hall this week, I decided to brew a batch of mead. I do this in five-gallon batches. This is ten pounds of honey, water, and wine yeast — I use champagne yeast because it tolerates a high degree of alcohol.

Grimbeorn’s Honey Cakes

Beorning Honey Cakes.

Recipe first, then I'll talk about it after the jump.

1 cup warm water
2 1/4 teaspoons yeast
1 stick plus 2 tablespoons room-temperature butter
1 cup honey
3 eggs
1 tablespoon heavy cream
3 cups flour, King Arthur White or alternative
1 tablespoon salt

First, dissolve the yeast in the warm water and set aside.

In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and honey together, whipping in plenty of air. We're going to use both air and yeast to create a cake-like texture. Add the yeast-water and combine so that the yeast can begin digesting some of the honey.

Whip in the eggs one at a time, at first slowly until combined, and then very briskly to add more air. Add the heavy cream at this time and whip as if it were another egg.

Add the flour and salt, stirring until combined and then whipping one more time. Allow to rise in a warm, undisturbed place for at least an hour before baking. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat your oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. 

You will get a batter rather than a kneadable dough, so it will be transferred for baking with a scoop or spoon. I used my æbleskiver pan for this, but you could bake them as whole cakes or muffins as well. Bake at this low temperature, so as not to burn the honey, until they are fully golden brown on the top. Baking times will vary by altitude -- I am on the shoulders of a mountain here -- but it should be under an hour if you make cakes like these, more if you make a single cake. You'll have to keep an eye on it to be sure; don't pull it out too soon. Make sure it's turned yellow and then gold, and darkened just a little bit. That will ensure they are thoroughly cooked but not dry.

UPDATE: I had batter left over so I covered it and let it mature overnight, then baked another batch this morning. Due to the extra time the yeast had with the honey they are significantly lighter and fluffier, and while they are less strongly honeyed, the butter flavor pops through better now. Therefore, for best results I recommend setting the batter the night before and baking in the morning. You’ll get hot honey cakes for breakfast. 

UPDATE: I am reminded of John Wayne's Hondo, in which the female lead at one point says that she 'has to set the batter for the morning.' It must have been a yeast batter like this, to ensure good hotcakes over the morning fire. 

More Math on Guns

Today's anti-gun front-page story at WaPo is titled, "Guns are found in US schools each day. The number is soaring." 

The number proves to be 1,150, almost all of them found by security without being fired. That's actually a tremendous success story about the way our schools have become safer by instituting security practices that effectively address a threat. A very good tale! If all beggars could tell such a good one, they might find me kinder.

There are over 128,000 schools in America, so this number also means that in 99.17% of American schools, no guns appeared -- and in the 0.83% where they did, they were mostly recovered without incident.

According to ATF data, there are 474 million guns in private hands in America, so that means that 99.9998% of American guns were not so involved, whereas only 0.0002% of those guns ended up in such (mostly successful) incidents.

Really, those numbers ought to be astonishing in exactly the opposite of the way the Post would like.

UPDATE: The ability to conceptualize numbers and scale is something gun control advocates often seem to actively work against
“The Massachusetts League of Women Voters supports HD.4607,” Art Desloges, speaking on behalf of the group, told the committee. “Statistically we have the lowest gun death rates nationwide, but gun violence archive reports 83 people killed by firearms in the Commonwealth through July of this year. We must get to zero. Even one person lost to gun violence is too many.”
The economic Law of Diminishing Returns suggests that getting from "the lowest in the nation" to "zero" will require approximately infinite effort. 

Here's a good round number, though: how about 100% opposition to this gun control law from the police? 
The state’s police chiefs do not support the Legislature’s efforts to strengthen Massachusetts gun laws — and it’s unanimous.

Mark Leahy, former chief of the Northboro Police Department and the executive director of the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association, said his organization recently met and voted to come out against Bill HD.4607, or An Act modernizing firearm laws.

The bill simply won’t reduce crime, Leahy said.

“Earlier today our membership met. We ultimately polled our members concerning HD.4607 and the result was an unprecedented unanimous vote to not support this bill,” Leahy told the House Ways and Means Committee Tuesday.

Representing all 351 Bay State cities and towns and more than 100 university police departments, the law enforcement organization was joined by dozens of gun rights advocates and constitutionalists in opposing the gun control bill during a hearing held Tuesday.

How Fragile is America?

The prior post was about a report put together by The Wise in 2019. This was their definition of "fragility" as regards states.
According to the Fragility Study Group, fragility can be defined as “the absence or breakdown of a social contract between people and their government.” Fragile states suffer from deficits of institutional capacity and political legitimacy that increase the risk of instability and violent conflict and sap the state of its resilience to disruptive shocks.
Now 2019 was before COVID, the 2020 "irregular" election, and a lot of other things. The US social contract has broken down a great deal. 

Our local pharmacy is in the front of a grocery store, so you end up sitting out in public while getting you flu shot. One of our older firefighters walked in while I was getting mine, and came over to talk to me for a moment. He said that this would be his first year in fifty years of not getting a flu shot, but, "I don't trust 'em anymore." That's a shame, because he's now of an age where the flu shot might actually save his life. You can put that to the whole cycle of saying things that weren't true about the COVID vaccine: it'll stop you from getting it, it'll stop the spread, it's "safe" and "effective" though it causes heart problems especially in young men and it doesn't actually work as promised. The second-order effects of all that lying by the highest levels of the government may never be overcome.

So too the effects of the sudden setting-aside of the social contract and constitutional order from that period. The most lasting effect of those set-asides is the result of the election, which was decided based on unconstitutional alterations of the method of voting by the executive without (as the constitution requires) consultation with the legislatures of the swing states involved. That changed everything, and nobody has forgotten it. Trust may, again, be impossible to restore. 

As for 'deficits of institutional capacity,' witness the Afghanistan withdrawal. That was the most trusted institution in the United States, the military, which has for decades stood right at the top of Gallup's Confidence in Institutions Poll. But also witness the loss of trust in the police, not only among those who sided with the George Floyd protests, but also among those who saw the police stand aside while rioters burned their cities because the police suddenly feared prosecution if they did their jobs.

Now look at just that middle bar from the graph below, on fragile states' relationship with extremisim:

Every part of that is true, right? You can each provide your own examples with only barely adjusted wording in a few cases: it's not that they've "failed to provide schools," but that they've provided schools in which sometimes no students can pass math proficiency exams. It's not only traditional religious authority that they've opposed and weakened -- it's intolerance and hate to oppose gay marriage or gay adoptions even in traditional churches in which there is a Biblical or Koranic definition of marriage, or to oppose provision of abortion even for an order of Nuns or in a Catholic hospital -- but it is certainly also those.

Pay attention to the log in one's eye, we are warned; but they walked right into it. Again, look at that list of Task Force members. They're the elites who had solid gold educations and careers, members of the Council of the Wise every one.

Failing Sun Tzu

The recent attack on Israel by Hamas and Iran gives us an occasion to review the failures of those whose job it was to prevent such things. They fail Sun Tzu's core dictum to "know thyself, and thy enemy." 

Consider, for example, the findings of this blue-ribbon panel called the "Task force on Extremism in Fragile States." It was published in February of 2019, so we can consider it a kind of five-year plan by the very people who got us into this mess (read the list of task force members), on the subject of how to get us out of it. 

It has three top-level recommendations, none of which survived contact with the bureaucracy. The main recommendation is to create an "initiative" to align all the various government authorities and agencies to address the problem. I have seen versions of this suggestion in high-powered 'how do we tackle extremism?' reports since the Defense Science Board report of 2004 that thought military strategic communications should be moved from the Pentagon to the Strategic Command in the hope of aligning various authorities and powers on psychological operations, information operations, public affairs, public diplomacy, etc., etc., in a way that would combat extremism.

Like everything else we've tried, after twenty years it hasn't worked. Reforming the ossified Federal government is beyond the strength of even the most well-respected, elite, tied-in-to-power clique. Neither did Congress undertake any of their priorities. It was, like all these panels, a complete waste of time and attention. The bureaucracy is too old, too stiff, and too unwilling to yield either money or power to allow itself to be reformed, or to accept a higher authority that would "align" it. Even where new bureaucracies are stood up on top of other ones -- Homeland Security, the ODNI -- the old bureaucracies maintain their independence and carry on as before. The top-level just generates paperwork.

As for Congress, it is not really interested in governing. Congressmen are interested in money, but actual governance they like to delegate to the executive branch.

This is failure to know thyself.

As for the enemy, there is also the usual problem of clarity of thought. The definitions of "extremism" and "fragility" are given in part III.
As used by this Task Force, “extremism” refers to a wide range of absolutist and totalitarian ideologies. “Extremists” believe in and advocate for replacing existing political institutions with a new political order governed by a doctrine that denies individual liberty and equal rights to citizens of different religious, ethnic, cultural, or economic backgrounds. “Violent extremists” espouse, encourage, and perpetrate violence as they seek to create their extremist political order. Extremism is not unique to any one culture, religion, or geographic region....

According to the Fragility Study Group, fragility can be defined as “the absence or breakdown of a social contract between people and their government.” Fragile states suffer from deficits of institutional capacity and political legitimacy that increase the risk of instability and violent conflict and sap the state of its resilience to disruptive shocks. Fragility also enables transnational crime, fuels humanitarian crises, and impedes trade and development.
Now the problem that they're really interested in they also name as "Salafi-jihadist," but they really want that last sentence: "Extremism is not unique to any one culture, religion, or geographic region." So instead of tackling what is already a very big problem, they elect to obscure it into a much larger category, which would require even more resources and moving parts to tackle. 

Along the way, they make a striking concession to relatively hard-right American critics like the Center for Security Policy (which the SPLC considers a hate group, a label they haven't yet followed the DOJ/ATF in wrongly assigning to the Hells Angels). It is only on the hard-right that one sees Islamic politics described as "totalitarian." In fact that description is understandable but incorrect: Islam's political philosophy is medieval, not a modern project like totalitarianism, and it only intends to assign totalizing power to God. Like totalitarian modern politics, Islamists like the Taliban or Iran do intend to encroach on what Westerners consider private matters -- sexuality, the appropriateness of music or art, and so forth. They do not imagine the kind of actual observation and control of all aspects of life that is coming into practice in the Chinese social credit system, or even in our own alliance between social media tech firms and the major government bureaucracies. They also envision a degree of tolerance -- coupled with submission, but tolerance -- for deviations from their ideas for those of certain protected minorities. Christians who pay the tax can worship more-or-less freely, and drink alcohol; Jews as well, at least until the end times. 

Meanwhile, the Task Force ends up excluding some other groups that I would think are more properly considered "extremists" or even "violent extremists." It was a violent anarchist who started World War I, for example, but he wouldn't qualify as an "extremist" under this definition because anarchists do not aspire to totalizing or absolutist control. The mobs that burned American cities the very year after this report came out would not have qualified as 'violent extremists' or, indeed, as extremists at all insofar as they were anarchists instead of Marxists. 

Look at this chart from page 20 for an example of lack of clarity:

Marxist totalitarians do not "cast secular governments as illegitimate," but in fact insist on secular government. They do not "use mosques" to "proselytize." They do not "propagate fundamentalist religious ideologies." By refusing to be clear about what they are even talking about, they end up lost in a fog of their own making.

Hamas is its own problem, not wisely roped in even to a discussion of "radical Islam" per se. It's unique, linked to the problem of Iran and Twelver radicalism but obviously distinct from it. It's unlike even the other radical Islamic groups opposing Israel. Trying to treat all of these as if they were symptoms of a bigger problem that's easier to name leads to ongoing lack of success at actually addressing the problem. 

This is failure to know thy enemy.

What Sun Tzu says about those who fail on both of those scores is that they will not know victory in a thousand battles. We've won a lot of gunfights, and even some things you might call "battles," like Second Fallujah or Third Mosul. We haven't won any part of the war.

I hope that Israel wins its war, but the honest truth is that they'll have a better chance if we don't try to help.

Surly Joe

I nearly always like cowboy songs, trucker songs, and biker songs. Here’s one of the former. 

Fall Color in the Mountains

It's just getting started here, still mostly green. If any of you are thinking of heading up to my mountains to see the show, here's a map that will help you plan the right dates for where you wanted to go.

Hardening the Society against Attacks

One step being taken in Israel is very wise and proper: arm the citizen militia.
“Any citizen who meets the detailed tests for carrying a private firearm due to self-defense and serving the security forces and is without a criminal or medical record will be required to undergo a telephone interview instead of a physical interview and will be able to receive permission to carry a firearm within a week,” Ben-Gvir said, according to a Google translation of the post. “(Self-defense tests: residence in an eligible settlement, rifle veterans 07 and above, officers in the rank of lieutenant and above and combatants in the rank of major and above in the IDF and the security forces, service in special units, firefighters, policemen, and workers and volunteers in the rescue forces).”

Eligible citizens who meet the criteria can now undergo a telephone interview instead of a physical one, and they can obtain permission to carry a firearm within a week. Any citizen who received a conditional permit to purchase a firearm in 2023 but did not purchase one can now buy a firearm without reapplying. Citizens who turned in their firearms over the previous six months, because they didn’t complete renewal training, can get their weapons back. The number of bullets that can be purchased by those with conditional permits has also been doubled. Gun-carry requirements will also be loosened.

The Second Amendment is already stronger than all of that put together, but it underlines and demonstrates the worth of a citizen militia in hardening a society against even coordinated violence.  

$100MM to fix EV Chargers in "Disadvantaged" Communities

Just out of curiosity, how many EVs can a 'disadvantaged' community afford? 

Furthermore, aren't these EV chargers nearly new just by nature of the technology? How quickly do they break? 

Happy Leif Erikson Day

The 9th of October celebrates the fearless explorer. 

Ready to Burn

All cleaned up.

It’s going to be 35 here tonight, heralding cold weather down the line. I took a wire brush to all the rust on the furnace. I reblacked it after I cleaned the iron. 

I also cleaned the inside with a shovel and a shop vac. I put a new gasket on the inside of the door. Then I went outside and opened and cleaned the chimney pipe, which is double-walled steel. 

No fire tonight, but we’re ready when the time comes.