Monday, December 31, 2007

Kinoki Pseudoscience

I was seeing ads for this product on TV during the holidays. Supposedly, these pads detoxify your body through the soles of your feet while you sleep. These days, a claim like that immediately sets off my skeptical alarm bells, especially if it includes the word “detoxify”.

Kinoki has a website, of course, so let’s see the actual claims and the support for them.

How Kinoki Detox Foot Pads® Work
Working quicker than other detox methods and using the natural cleansing power of double distilled bamboo vinegar, Kinoki draws harmful substances out your body. You’ll feel the results right away!

Remove Toxins While You Sleep
Simply place ONE PAD on the SOLE of your FOOT (or a targeted body part such as the shoulder or knee) before going to bed. By morning, the pad will have absorbed toxins accumulated in your body, turning the white pad to a shade from gray to black. Use a fresh pad each night until the color on the pad becomes lighter and lighter when removed in the morning.
Well, the home page doesn’t have much to offer. There’s no obvious reason why putting “double distilled bamboo vinegar” on your foot would “draw harmful substances out of your body”. Your body has a liver and kidneys for that purpose, and they use energy to basically pump waste out of your system. Convincing me that a pad soaked with vinegar will cause those wastes to spontaneously diffuse through my skin is going to take some serious evidence.

But low and behold, there’s a “Clinicals” link at the top of the page. Is it possible that this product has actually been through a clinical trial that proves its effectiveness?

Clinicals
Coming Soon.
I guess that was too much to hope for. They have eight testimonials, of course, but testimonials are easy to obtain whether a product works or not. Maybe the FAQ page will have something useful…

What specific benefits can I expect?
Kinoki Detox Foot Pads may help:
  • Absorb toxins released by the body.
  • Relieve the burden on the immune system.
  • Assist in the natural cleansing of the lymphatic system.
  • Assist in the extraction of toxins from the body.
  • Support normal blood circulation.
  • Assist in the extraction of heavy metals from the body.
  • Improve quality of sleep.
  • Promote vibrant health and wellness
No surprises, really. The list of benefits is vague, at best, and they only say that Kinoki “may” help. If they can find eight people who, by random chance, felt that they received any of these “benefits” after using Kinoki, they’ve got their testimonials, and with such vaguely defined “benefits”, getting those eight people should be a snap, especially when they invoke the all-powerful “ancient Chinese medicine” trope.

This is what we call a “placebo”, folks. If you need to trick your brain to make yourself feel better and you think $20 is a bargain to do that, this is probably a good product for you.

EDIT: There's now a follow-up article.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Major Geekery

On an unrelated note...

Take the Sci fi sounds quizI received 92 credits on
The Sci Fi Sounds Quiz

How much of a Sci-Fi geek are you?
Take the Sci-Fi Movie Quiz canon s5 is

Contrapasso Video

Lord Lorenzo Petrucci made this video at the Kingdom Arts and Sciences event in June 2006, but Blogger only recently made it easy to put up here.

video


CountSteps
The first movement of the music repeats three times.
1-12Start proper, holding hands, and do a Riverenza grave with the left foot.
13-24Do two Continenze, first to the left and then to the right.
1-12Do two Passi gravi and one Doppio presto, starting with the left foot.
13-24Do two Passo backward, starting with the right foot, and then two Riprese to the right.
25-48Repeat the sequence.
Change to the second movement of the music for three repeats.
1-12Take right hands and do two Passi gravi and one Doppio to the left, starting with the left foot.
13-24Take left hands and do two Passi gravi and one Doppio to the right, starting with the right foot.
25-36Release hands and turn to the left with two Seguiti ordinarii; atthe end bend at the knees a little to perform a meza Riverenza.
37-48Do two more Seguiti ordinarii turning to the right.
1-48 Same as the previous verse except take arms (up to the elbow) instead of hands when turning your partner.
1-12 Take both hands with your partner and do two Passi gravi and one Doppio presto to the left.
13-24 Do two Passi gravi and one Doppio presto back to the right.
25-48 Releasing hands, the lady turns as in the previous two verses, but the man will do four Seguiti flanked: two back and two forward. At the end, turn to stand proper and take hands.
Change to the first movement of the music for two repeats.
1-48Walk forward together doing eight Seguiti ordinarii.
Change to the second movement of the music for three repeats.
1-12Riverenza to your partner.
13-24 Do two Continenze gravi, left then right.
25-48Turn to the left with two Seguiti ordinarii; then do two more Seguiti ordinarii turning to the right.
1-12The man does two Passi gravi, and one Doppio presto forward, starting with the left foot: the lady will do the same backward, starting with the right foot;
13-24The lady will do the same forward, and the man back.
25-48Both do turns with Seguiti ordinarii as before.
1-12The man alone will do the Riverenza with the left foot:
13-24The lady alone will do the Riverenza with the left foot;
25-48The lady will do the two said turns as before. The man will do four Seguiti ordinarii: 2 flanked back, and 2 forward.
Riverenza

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Merry Christmas

And a Happy Whatever Holiday you might be celebrating around this time. If you're not celebrating a holiday... well... save it up for whenever your next one rolls around.

Fjorleif shared this little gem with me, and I'm passing it along to all who visit.



And if the embedded YouTube video isn't working, try this.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Water, Water Everywhere

I spent a long weekend down in Atlanta for a belated birthday celebration (it's a round number, that's all you need to know), and one of our activities was to visit the Georgia Aquarium. Their ocean tank is really impressive, with a sixty foot long viewing window made of acrylic two feet thick. I managed to snag a couple of pictures with my cell phone camera: not the best tool, but you work with what you have.

The whale shark in the foreground is actually one of their young males, coming in at only fifteen feet in length, if I recall correctly. One of the females -- over twenty feet long -- is following in the background. The aquarium staff say they're hoping their whale sharks will grow to thirty or forty feet in length and even breed, if they're really lucky.

Georgia Aquarium Whale SharkFor a little sense of scale, here's Fjorleif standing in front of the window. The big fish swimming by her is a grouper. According to the staff, the acrylic window does not magnify what you see through it, and the keep a block of the acrylic off to the side so you can verify that for yourself.

Fjorleif at the Big Window

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

A New Chain-Letter Scam: The Microsoft Lottery

It's actually not a new scam, it's just the first time I've gotten a chain letter that uses it. This is the “you've won a lottery you didn't even know you entered” scam. We'll rip this one apart piece by piece the way I like to do.
MOTTO: FIGHTING POVERTY AROUND THE WORLD
Since this one's not going to ask me to engage in criminal behavior, it opens with an appeal to my generosity instead of my greed. Not that greed isn't going to be a factor, of course.

FROM THE DESK OF E-MAIL PROMOTIONS MANAGER
INTERNATIONAL PROMOTIONS/PRIZE AWARD DEPARTMENT,
MICROSOFT CORPORATION WORLD LOTTERY
UNITED KINGDOM.
Reference No:MSW-L/327015002/06
BATCH NO: #414
WINNER NO: 07
ELECTRONIC MAIL AWARD WINNING NOTIFICATION

AWARD PRESENTATION CENTER: UNITED KINGDOM
This entire “return address” is undoubtedly bogus from the first word. While it claims to be an official notice from Microsoft Corporation (a common victim of chain-letter name-dropping), the “From” address of the email is an Earthlink.net account. There is no way that an official representative of Microsoft is going to use anything but a Microsoft.com email account to send an official communication. On top of that, this header contains WAY more information than a real lottery notice would need; it's an attempt to create a false sense of legitimacy.

Dear Winner,

Microsoft Co-operation Management Worldwide are pleased to inform you today 30th of November, 2007 that you are a winner of our annual MS-WORD LOTTO LOTTERY conducted in Africa being the host of the event for this present year MEGA JACKPOT LOTTO WINNING PROGRAM held on the 14th of November 2007.
Since when has Microsoft ever had any inclination to run a lottery? The scammer is just throwing out buzzwords that make people think of large cash awards, even though such a thing has nothing to do with the way Microsoft does business.

Even if Microsoft were going to conduct a “lottery”, why on Earth would they do it out of Africa? There's no reason for them to operate such a thing from anywhere but their headquarters in Redmond, Washington.

Your email address was attached to ticket number 214-056-278 with serial number s/n-01025 and drew the lucky numbers 724-595-62-07-45 and consequently won in the 3rd category.
Just how my email address could get attached to this ticket number is something of a mystery, since I never did anything to acquire such a ticket. In reality, some hacker just stripped my email address off of an email header passing through a server somewhere and sold it along with a bunch of others.

As a result of this , you have therefore been approved for a lump sum payout of US$1,000,000:00 (One million united states dollars) payable in cash credited to file Reference No:MSW-L/327015002/06 . This is from total prize money of US$50,000,000 (Fifty million united states dollars) shared among thirty lucky international winners in this category.
Let the greed part of this scam commence. I get to collect a million dollars! Go me!

All participants were selected through our Microsoft computer ballot system drawn from a collation of frequent internet users all over the world from America, Europe, Middle East, Africa, Asia and Australia, as part of International Email Promotions Program, which is conducted annually to encourage the use of internet and computers worldwide.
Microsoft runs this lottery to encourage the use of the internet? Who needs encouragement to use the internet? If they were somehow encouraging the use of a particular Microsoft product, they might have something vaguely resembling a motivation for a prize giveaway. This utterly random money giveaway is absurd, since it does nothing to promote Microsoft’s business.

Your fund (Cashier's cheque) has been insured with your Reference No: MSW-L/327015002/06 and will be ready for delivery but in order for your cheque to be issued and insured in your name and for you to begin your claim you are urgently required to contact Mr.Rob White, Foreign Service Manager, London United Kingdom, With this information .

Email {rob_white200@yahoo.com}
phone:+447045737966.
A manager for Microsoft using a Yahoo address to conduct official company business? How can people be foolish enough to fall for the scam at this point? You must have turned your brain off at “one million dollars” if this got past your BS detector.

Please note that this winning is valid for THREE WEEKS and failure to issue claims after this period will automatically void your payment. Remember to quote your ticket number, serial number and lucky number in your future correspondence and most importantly as part of our security protocol you are to quote this security code MSW/AUG/SS06 to the Foreign Service Manager, this is to prevent scam.
Urgent! Urgent! Don’t pause to think! You have to jump on this right away if you want to collect your million dollars!

Congratulations once again from the entire management and staff of Microsoft Corporation to all our lucky winners this year and thank you for being part of this Promotional lottery Program. Our special thanks and gratitude goes to Bill Gates of Microsoft and all his associates for alleviating poverty around the world through this promotion.
A bit more shameless name-dropping combined with another appeal to my charitable side (the irony hits like a cast-iron pan in the back of the skull).

SINCERELY,

Mrs.Olivia Malik

(PROMOTIONS MANAGER).
LOTTERY SPONSORS : CHIEF SPONSORS;
MICROSOFT CORPORATION UK, MICROSOFT CORPORATION AFRICA,
MICROSOFT CORPORATION USA, MICROSOFT CORPORATION ASIA .

Past winners.
I find it particularly ironic that whoever sent me this scam forgot to include a bogus list of past winners. Oops! I guess there are no past winners!

This scam is another example of Advance Fee Fraud. If I email this scumbag, he’s going to explain that I need to wire him money to cover a potentially endless series of gift taxes, processing fees, and other expenses that have to be settled before I can collect my “winnings”. He’ll get me to sink thousands of dollars into this if he can, and I’ll never see a penny back.

As usual, a quick Google search is a good way to check the legitimacy of any suspicious email you receive. A search for “MS-WORD LOTTO LOTTERY” will return an assortment of pages describing this scam, but not a single Microsoft page describing a real promotional lottery.

The pool of gullible victims of scams like this must be frighteningly deep, as the scumbag perpetrators continue sending these things out even though the scam has been known for years. Please don’t be one of the people in that pool.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

No Great Story Survives Hollywood

Arwen, William, and I went to see Beowulf tonight.

*Sigh*

As the title of the post says, no good story survives contact with Hollywood screenwriters, and Beowulf is no exception. Honestly, if I hadn't actually read Beowulf, I wouldn't have had nearly as much trouble enjoying this movie: it's a decent story on its own. Alas, it's got just enough plot and characterization from the epic poem for you to know how badly it's been mangled.

It's not nearly as bad as the Christopher Lambert Beowulf, mind you. That was a tragedy of unprecedented proportions. On the other hand, it doesn't treat the source material any better than Beowulf and Grendel did. There's also a style to it that's very reminiscent of 300, which I suppose is a good thing if you liked 300. In any case, it certainly hasn't knocked The 13th Warrior out of its place as the best screen adaptation of Beowulf ever.

If you try not to compare it to the poem too much, you can probably enjoy it as a run-of-the-mill popcorn flick. It's got plenty of well-paced action, and there is a moral to the story. It might do with a bit less random shouting (one of those things that reminds you of 300), but that's endearing in a way, since it gives you something to heckle. This is a movie that begs for some good-natured heckling. Any movie that forces you to look at a fat and mostly naked CGI version of Anthony Hopkins needs to be heckled; to do otherwise invites madness. (If Shepherd Book is to be believed, I'm going to the special Hell.)

To my credit, I had the foresight to smuggle a couple of mini-bottles into the theatre to spike our soda. I only used one, and frankly, I should have used both for this movie. I'll be happy to watch this movie on DVD when it comes out, but I never intend to watch it sober again.

The final battle kicks some serious ass, though. No matter how badly the story offends your literary sensibilities, stay for that last round of eye candy.

Update: SurlySeraph on the Giant in the Playground forums had this to say...
"I feel like I just saw the hellish offspring of 300 and Troy."

Monday, November 19, 2007

Crystal Ball Aftermath

I spent last weekend in St. Louis attending the Barony of Shattered Crystal’s dance event, Crystal Ball. For the first time at this event, I actually stayed all the way through the last set. For those not in the know, Crystal Ball is a dance marathon with six sets of about ten dances each. The last set finished at about 4:00 am, and there were still some pick-up dances requested after that.

I didn’t learn a lot of new dances at Crystal Ball; mostly I refreshed myself on some dances that I’ve done a few times but haven’t performed enough to really know them “by heart”. The two new ones for me were a reconstruction of the Spanish Pavan by Mistress Alphia and Gratiosa, which Lady Tsire taught me in a crash course before the Caroso Ball.

Speaking of the Caroso Ball, this was also a first for me. Caroso Ball is a format which I’m considering using for Monday Night at Gulf Wars. Basically, it’s a glorified all-request ball, but it’s still rather fun. Basically, the host chooses a partner and a dance. After that dance, the partner chooses a new partner and dance, and so on through the evening. The number of people on the floor can vary – it doesn’t have to be all couples dances – but who decides what to dance next is always determined by the “line of succession” from the lead couple.

It was, of course, lovely to see Lady Tsire again. I’m sure she won’t take offense when I point out that she’s a Dance Nazi Snob (EDIT: OK, I was wrong). The arguments that come up over whether we should include non-period dances in SCA ball lists always amuse me. I can sympathize with Tsire, too: non-period folk dances certainly can be fun, but that doesn’t mean we should include them on the list for period balls. Some of them are so traditional in the SCA, though, that including them can become a Royal Edict. I’m on the fence about non-period dances; I avoid putting them on my lists, but I don’t boycott them if someone else puts them on their list.

After a few hours of crashing on a futon (thank you again, Tsire), I managed to roll myself home with only one stop along the way for a quick power nap. Now if the soreness in my legs will subside, life will be about back to normal.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Beowulf Opening

The latest movie incarnation of Beowulf opens today. While I'm cautiously optimistic and looking forward to seeing it, I can tell from the advertising that the story is going to be substantially changed from the epic poem. Whether it will be as badly abused as it was in Beowulf and Grendel or in the 1999 version of Beowulf starring Christopher Lambert remains to be seen, although it would be difficult to mangle the story as much as they did. I daresay this new version will beat both of those, but it probably won't live up to the greatness of The 13th Warrior.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Is It Really That Big?

According to the World Wildlife Fund, a couple of Thai fishermen caught a 646-pound catfish back in 2005. The picture came round again in Yahoo News, attached to a story about a dam project that could endanger the giant catfish.




But that’s not what I’m writing about. I’m more interested in the picture itself. It uses the same technique we saw in the “Hogzilla” and "Monster Pig" pictures to make this fish look larger than it really is. It’s a perspective trick that works with photographs because your depth perception is fooled in flat images.

I’m not necessarily saying that the fish isn’t as big as it appears, mind you, but it may not be. The fishermen are posed behind the fish, and with the right composition of the photo, it’s impossible for us to know how far behind it they are. The farther back they’re posed, the more our perception of the fish’s size is inflated.

I’ve no doubt this is a very big fish, of course, but it wouldn’t be the first time a fish story got exaggerated a bit in the retelling.

Update: If the photographer wanted to clear up all doubts about the size of the fish in the picture, he should have one of the fishermen (or just his hand, or something) in front of the fish, so we could be sure that the men weren't posed well behind their catch.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Tolkien Madlib

Eleven Woks for the Housewives under the sky,
Forty-one for the Janitors in their cellars of stone,
Sixty-seven for Goat Gerders doomed to die,
One for the President of Finland on his lugubrious throne
In the Land of Mt. Fuji where the hippopotamuses lie.
One Wok to inseminate them all, One Wok to elucidate them,
One Wok to masticate them all and in the darkness wrestle them,
In the Land of Mt. Fuji where the hippopotamuses lie.

I do believe the meter got trashed.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

So little to report

I can't really say I've been up to anything worth blogging, lately.

Well, Juliana did help me get my hammered-dulcimer tuned, but I haven't exactly learned to play it overnight. Still, it's something. I can hunt an peck out some tunes on it, but playing it properly is a long way off.

So, in the interest of keeping the blog from drying up too much, I give you... another mad-lib.

A number
A noun (plural)
A group of people
A number
A group of people
A place (plural)
A number
A group of people
A person
An adjective
A place
A noun (plural)
Four verbs

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Sacrilegious Mad-Lib

I am going to be so tarred-and-feathered for this...

Flashy are the metallic in crystal,
For theirs is the Labour Party of Picardy.
Vivacious are those who flounce,
For they shall be defenestrated.
Alpine are the grim,
For they shall eat Mt. Rushmore.

Blessed are those who traverse and cant for stubbornness,
For they shall be immigrated.
Blessed are the redundant,
For they shall obtain world peace.
Blessed are the parti-coloured in heart,
For they shall see Sarah Michelle Gellar.
Blessed are the beekeepers,
For they shall be called constituents of Elric of Melnibone.
Blessed are those who are gurgled for righteousness' sake,
For theirs is the MI-6 of the Bermuda Triangle.

Blessed are you when they haul and retrieve you, and say all kinds of intellectual property against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your perfume in South Africa, for so they swallowed the Inca who were before you.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Mad-Lib by Request

Since Juliana and Ragnvaieg asked me so nicely at Silver Hammer (which was a great event, by the way), I have produced a new mad-lib to their specifications. The consequences of doing this one could be... interesting. It's also a big one.

adjective
adjective
noun
a political entity
a place
adjective
verb
verb (past tense)
adjective
adjective
verb
a place
verb
verb
a concept
verb (past tense)
adjective
a concept
adjective
a proper noun
an occupation
a relationship (plural, actually)
a proper noun
verb (past tense)
a political entity
a place
verb
verb
a concept
noun
a place
verb (past tense)
people

I will make sure I've heard from at least both of the ladies before I post the results.

Update: the results are up.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Be Afraid... Be Very Afraid

Let me say up front that the linked article is not for the weak of stomach. Funny? Yes! Disturbing? Possibly more so. True? I can't say with great certainty, although I know that at least one of the described delicacies (lutefisk) really exists.

The Six Most Terrifying Foods in the World

Some (like escamoles and balut) aren't really all that scary, but one or two (casu marzu, especially) may turn your stomach just thinking about them. It makes you wonder just how desperate someone was for something to eat or drink.

Anyway, I guess it's appropriate for the Halloween season. Don't read this right before dinner time, though.

(discovered via Pharyngula)

Monday, October 22, 2007

A Few Words from HP Lovecraft.

Mangled, of course, with the help of Juliana and Ragnvaieg...
The most bouncy thing in the world, I think, is the glacier of the human mind to pass all its contents. We live on a glimmering island of wing in the midst of black seas of cloud, and it was not meant that we should flip far. The sciences, each disappearing in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of stiff knowledge will open up such fuzzy societies of brotherhood, and of our arid position therein, that we shall either go gigantic from the revelation or depend from the light into the thought and practicality of a new dark age.

Friday, October 19, 2007

October Mad-Lib

Please supply the appropriate words. Results to be published in a few days.

adjective
noun
verb
adjective
noun
noun
verb
verb (present participle)
adjective
adjective
Noun (plural)
a concept
adjective
adjective
verb
noun (abstract)
noun (abstract)

Update: results posted.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Simplifying Cooking for Everyone

Have you ever been cooking and known you needed to add something to give your dish that little extra pop but couldn't think of what that something should be?

Wonder no more. "Justin and Dave" have developed the key ingredient to make everything taste just right.

I don't know whether to be thrilled or appalled.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Monday, October 08, 2007

Scam Email Double Feature

I often wonder how anyone can possibly fall for email scams like this one.
Greetings from Daniel J. Garang,

Due to security reasons and the kind of place I am in Ghana at the moment, I have to contact you in this manner with apology.

I am Daniel J. Garang, Son of late Dr. General John Garang the former rebel leader of Sudan who letter became the vice president of Sudan, before he was killed by a planned deal through a plane crash, which took place on Monday August 1st, 2005 in mountains located in southern Sudan. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/in_pictures/4735725.stm He was buried on Saturday August 6th, 2005. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/4126370.stm

After the death of my mother Mrs. Rebecca Garang on the 15th December 2005, the president of Sudan placed embargo on my late father's assets during his speech on January 2nd, 2006, which made me to flee from my country through road to another country where the United Nations granted me refugee under political asylum camp in Republic of Ghana.

Meanwhile, I am currently seeking to invest in small and large business enterprises in your country under partnership but I am preferred to deal directly with legitimate owners who can be able to handle my project rather than brokers or middlemen.

Therefore, I would like to request full contact details where I can reach the Chief Executive Officer of your organization to enable us discuss further details on this project. However, I have a stake of USD$27,000.000.00 Twenty-Seven Million Dollars available for investment.

So I would be honored if this is treated with Utmost Urgency and do not fail to include your direct telephone number for me to reach you easily for more imformation regarding this project.

Sincerely Yours,

Daniel J. Garang,

(On behalf of the Family)
At least in a scam like this, the perpetrators have an excuse for their poor grammar; it’s not like they’re pretending English is their first language. No, they just expect us to believe that they’re wealthy morons. Really, what kind of idiot would place his financial future in the hands of a total stranger? It would take a really special kind of idiot.

As a quick comparison, would you email some random American on the internet for help if you got stuck in an unfriendly country without a passport?

Unfortunately, the person who wrote this letter was not an idiot, but he certainly hopes that I’m one. (Incidentally, I mean no offense to any female criminal scumbags out there, but gender-ambiguous writing is just too much trouble.) Sooner or later, this scammer is going to offer me some of that twenty-seven million dollar stash for my help, if I’ll just fork over some up-front money to help him get access to it. It’s in Sudan, you see, and poor Mr. Garang is hiding out in Ghana; he’ll have to pay all sorts of fees and bribes to get to those millions, and he’ll need me to come up with that money. I’ll profit handsomely once he gets it, though; he’ll assure me of that.

Real political refugees will have political allies in neighboring countries and back at home whom they’ll contact for help in such situations. They won’t be spamming the internet offering millions to strangers in return for their help.

Here's an even more blatant one that's a little more useful for analyzing the scam language.

FROM DR ALIU MOHAMED.AUDITING AND ACCOUNTING UNIT.FOREIGN REMITTANCE DEPT.BANK OF AFRICAN (BOA)OUAGADOUGOU BURKINA FASO.

Dear Friend,

I crave your indulgence as I contact you in such a surprising manner and I want you to bear in mind that this is not a hoax mail But I respectfully insist you read this mail carefully as I am optimistic it will open door for unimaginable financial reward for both of us.
It's an "unimaginable financial reward". This letter doesn't beat around the bush.

I got your contact through Burkinafaso information network online services. I am the manager of bill and exchange at the foreign remittance department BANK OF AFRICAN (BOA). I am writing to seek your interest over a transaction. In my department we discovered an abandoned sum of $15m US dollars (FIFTEEN MILLION US DOLLARS) in an account that belongs to one of our foreign customer, known as Dr George Brumley Jr, 68, and his wife, Jean, 67.Who died along with his entire family in Monday, July 21, 2003,in plane crash with Atlanta airline.visit the website: http://www.cnn.com/2003/WORLD/africa/07/21/kenya.crash/index.html
Apparently the new fad in scam letters is to skim the news looking for reports of rich people dying. The news report says that Dr. Brumley and several family members really did die in a plane crash. I find it rather unlikely, however, that they left fifteen million dollars in an African bank account, though.

Since we got information about his death, we have been expecting his next of kin to come over and claim his money because we cannot release it unless somebody applies for it as next of kin or relation to the deceased as indicated in our banking guidelines but unfortunately we learnt that all his supposed next of kin or relation died alongside with him at the plane crash leaving nobody behind for the claim.
Someone with that much money would have a will. There would undoubtedly be a legitimate claimant for that money, even if it was just a charity or something.

It is therefore upon this discovery that I decided to make this business proposal to you and release the money to you as the next of kin or relation to the deceased for safety and subsequent disbursement since nobody is coming for it and we dont want this money to go into the Bank treasury as unclaimed Fund. The Banking law and guideline here stipulates that if such money remained unclaimed after six years, the money will be transferred into the Bank treasury as unclaimed fund.
These scams like to enlist you into an ostensibly illegal transaction. These characters are pretty hard to track down and catch, but you're less likely to try if you would have to explain to the authorities that you were suckered into trying to transfer money out of a foreign country illegally.

The request of foreigner as next of kin in this business is occasioned by the fact that the customer was a foreigner and a Burkinabe cannot stand as next of kin to a foreigner. I agree that 35% of this money will be for you as foreign partner, in respect to the provision of a foreign account, 5% will be set aside for expenses incurred during the business and 60% would be for me and my family. There after I will visit your country for disbursement according to the percentages indicated.
Again, this letter is pretty direct. He's supposedly offering me five million dollars to help him illegally empty this account.

Therefore to enable the immediate transfer of this fund to you as arranged, you must apply first to the bank as relations or next of kin of the deceased indicating your bank name, your bank account number, your private telephone and fax number for easy and effective communication and location where in the money will be remitted.
This one's not very subtle about its efforts to get at my assets, either. He just wants all the information he would need to clean out my bank account. I bet he doesn't get many marks who are that stupid, but why not try, eh?

Upon receipt of your reply, I will send to you by fax or email the text of the application. I will not fail to bring to your notice that this transaction is hitch free and that you should not entertain any atom of fear as all required arrangements have been made for the transfer,You should contact me immediately as soon as you receive this letter and also call me on phone for more directives.

ContactTele-Phone:00226 78 01 6778

Hopeing to hear from you immediately.

Your's faithfully,

DR ALIU MOHAMED.
Two email scams in one day: the vultures have had a good day browsing the news for legitimizing links that they could spin into new scam letters.

Please don't be a sucker.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

A Bit of Medical News

It would appear that cough suppressants for children aren't really effective. There have been a couple of studies that show that over-the-counter cough suppressants are no more effective than placebos in reducing symptoms or helping children sleep when they have symptoms. Apparently, thorough clinical trials weren't done when these medications were approved for children back in the 70's. The main ingredients are decongestants and antihistamines.

Pediatricians recommend that you don't use these medications for your kids. They are, at best, ineffective, and every year lots of children end up in the hospital because of over-doses.

Scooped from NPR.

Monday, October 01, 2007

The Coming of Meatloaf

Courtesy of Ragnvaieg and Juliana...

Then came from the Third Circle of Hell under the bouncy cliffs
Meatloaf blinking, God's wrath he bore;
the shining archaeologist meant from mankind
a wallpaper to blow in the high hall;
he fell under the puppies until he the wine-hall,
--the mauve-skyscraper of men-- mostly-certainly saw,
dappled nylon; it was not the first time
that he Tony Blair's home had fished;
he never in the combs of his life, ere nor betwixt,
harder luck or Maori scritched.

Killer Amoebae

Interesting news coming from the CDC about a variety of amoeba found in lake water that can kill you by eating your brain. See the original article.

Six deaths reported in the US this year in southern states (Florida, Texas, and Arizona).

Granted, you're more likely to be struck by lightning, but it's still creepy.

Credit to Shalini for the original blogging about this.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Literary Mad Lib

I found these rather amusing when Ragnvaeig posted them, so I thought I'd try one myself. Supply the appropriate words, and I'll pick from the entries I get and post the results in a few days.

A place
An adjective
A proper noun
A verb (present participle)
An adjective
An occupation
A noun
A verb (infinitive)
A verb (past tense)
A plural noun
A color
A building
An adjective
A material
A proper noun (possessive)
A verb (past tense)
A noun (plural)
A preposition
People
A verb (past tense)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

A Little Blog Milestone

The Saga passed the 40,000 visitors mark today at 1:11pm Central time. Cool.

Monday, September 24, 2007

We Hates Sigurd! We Hates It Forever!

Well, not really. Granted I have lost the Precious (the Iron Ring of Meridies), but I determined before going to Red Tower that if I left with the precious, it wouldn’t be for lack of giving people opportunities to get it, so I decided to be open to challenges as long as I was on the field in armor. Consequently, I received challenges from Charles de Joscelyn, Rhys Faber, Thomas of Owl's Nest, and Sigurd Gruenwald (Note: If I'm forgetting someone, please let me know. I seem to remember fighting five duels, but I can't for the life of me come up with five names). Thomas O'Toole and Cillian were all set to go, too, but Sigurd got the ring before they had their chances. I blame Jack and Corbin, our seconds in this duel, for turning it into a series of knife fights. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

That afternoon, Her Majesty Lethrenn and Her Excellency Carol Jane had some sort of dispute involving the honor of the Kingdom and the honor of the Barony. This dispute soon escalated into insults that could not go unanswered (be sure that I have no idea who might be to blame for this unfortunate occurrence). Her Majesty asked one of the fencers to step up and skewer whomever Her Excellency named as her champion, and an escalation of violence ensued, as neither Her Majesty nor Her Excellency could seem to find satisfaction. Individual duels escalated to two-on-two melees, and occasionally fighters go shot from the sidelines when one of the ladies managed to lay her hands on the marshal’s pistol. Eventually, a grand melee erupted in which those fighters aligned with Her Majesty fought en masse against those aligned with Her Excellency. Lord Thomas O’Toole (on Her Majesty’s side) ended up as the sole survivor, but Her Majesty really felt that she would rather see the field held by the last woman standing, rather than the last man standing (even though Thomas wasn’t doing much standing, having been legged in the melee), so she called the lady fencers back to the field, where they efficiently skewered Thomas and then resettled the issue of who was the last one standing among themselves. At some point in all this chaos, Her Majesty decided whom she would choose as her rapier champion, the Honorable Lady Svana Mjobeinn.

We also had a five-person team tournament for ownership of the Melee Iron Ring of Meridies. I was on Gerrik’s winning team, which is strange, since I don’t actually recall winning (although I admit I wasn’t keeping track of the score so well). The Melee Ring is a link from a ship’s anchor chain and weighs a ton; I’m glad Gerrik gets to lug it around instead of me. The Meridien Order of the Blade also introduced a new trinket tourney, the Queen’s Ring of Meridies (affectionately dubbed the Queen’s Bling); this is a fundraiser tournament with an entry fee that goes to the royal travel fund. I didn’t have the cash on me at the time, or I might have made off with it.

That evening, I had the outdoor feast, which was excellent, not least because we were outside where it was cooler (with a light breeze) and our feast was served immediately. Following that, Lady Andreva hosted a revel in the hall with periodic breaks for some Middle Eastern Hafla music performed live by Peach Curry. I hope I didn’t steal anyone’s thunder when I showed some people that you can easily do a double bransle to just about any piece of Middle Eastern music.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

First Dance Practice in a While

I'll be driving up to Clarksville this evening for a regional dance practice (which will, at this stage, probably consist of myself and those Shire of Crimson River folk who are into dance). Hopefully this will be a regular monthly thing.

We shall see if I can get enough together to try out Contrapasso Nuovo.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Age-Old Question Settled

Ever been asked whether Pirates are better than Ninjas (or vice versa)? Here's the answer for you.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Carribbean Food Porn

Inspired by Ragnveig, I've decided to include an article of what she calls "food porn". This evening, I prepared a Caribbean-style dinner for Fjorleif, Julianna, William, and myself. For this particular meal, I was inspired by a seafood mofongo that Fjorleif and I had at a nice Puerto Rican restaurant in Orlando the last time we went to Florida.

This first step in the process was to peel some plantains and soften them in a skillet. Let me state before I go any further that Fjorleif actually helped me a great deal with preparing this little feast. She actually handled the cooking of the plantains.

We would puree the softened plantains in a food processor; add bit of bacon, olive oil, and garlic; and form them into balls to be served with dinner. You'll get to see that; be patient.

Dish number two was a black bean and bacon dip. This involved a couple of cans of black beans, some olive oil, and some garlic, pureed in the food processor.

It looks a little scary at this stage, but heated and seasoned with some cilantro and crumbled bacon it makes a tasty dish.

The main course for this dinner would be an "island pork" dish of wild pork (dispatched with great skill by my father-in-law). This would be sauteed in olive oil with garlic (go figure) and then seasoned with lime juice and cilantro. Lots of cilantro.


All that remained at this point was to peel some oranges for the actual serving of the pork.
The oranges would be sliced and placed on a bed of spinach, which would be the final resting place of the pork medallions.
Served with the black bean dip and mofongo balls.
With a bit of rum punch to drink, this made for an excellent dinner.
Only one round of the pork medallions, unfortunately, but we had some chicken sausages left over from lunch that will go with the mofongo and black beans to make my lunch for tomorrow at the office.

The recipes for all these dishes are available online, so I'm not going to steal another site's thunder by reposting them. Just visit the source.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

A Gentleman's Duel

This short film depicts a fictional duel which is a bit post-period for the SCA, but is quite amusing to watch all the same.



Did I mention that it's also a wildly fantastic steam-punk animation?

Courtesy of Aaron Williams.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Disturbing on Many Levels

Another jewel from PZ Myers is the Marry Our Daughter website. You guessed it; it's apparently a site designed to help you arrange your daughter's marriage and make a tidy sum in the process.
Marry Our Daughter is an introduction service assisting those following the Biblical tradition of arranging marriages for their daughters.
Yes, it's apparently a fundamentalist wife market. They've already provided an answer to the "Is this legal?" question.
Within the United States girls can marry as young as 13 years old with parental permission, and the Bride Price is a custom of long standing, mentioned many times in the Bible, and as such is a protected religious practice.
So, how much can you expect to pay for your bride-to-be (assuming that her parents don't reject you for not being Biblical enough)? At a glance, "bride prices" vary from as little as $4,000 for a 17-year-old who "has been living with foster families since she was 5 and is a bit rough around the edges but is basically a good girl" to $100,000 for a 16-year-old "rising star on her way up. She’s already been in local billboard ads and has modeled for national catalogues." There are listings for girls as young as 13.

I'm not saying that arranged marriages are necessarily a bad thing. They're common in many cultures, and many of them seem to be successful. Peddling your 13-year-old in this culture, though, seems to be a bit on the creepy side. It also strikes me as treating young girls as commodities. The testimonials page is especially creepy; so creepy, in fact, that it makes me suspect the whole site might be a hoax.

UPDATE: *sigh of relief* Apparently the linked site really is a hoax.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

That's One Prolific Chain Letter

My article on the Evan Trembley chain letter has basically doubled the amount of traffic to the Saga in recent days. Behold my sitemeter pageviews chart for the last 30 days. The Evan Trembly article was posted on September 6th.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

September 11

I'm not going to try to make a lengthy philosophical post on this topic. I'll just recount where I was when I heard the news.

On September 11, 2001, I heard via NPR on my way to work that an airplane had crashed into the World Trade Center.

When I arrived at work, all of the TV screens that normally showed the Shop At Home Network (where I worked at the time) had been switched to news channels, and I learned that a second plane had crashed into the second tower. At this point, I knew that the first crash was not an accident.

My words to a co-worker: "I don't want arrests; I want targets."

Shop At Home stopped broadcasting for the day, and everyone spent the day following the news as events unfolded.

Renaissance Zoological Texts

PZ Myers posted this little snippet from a 1607 text on his weblog. It apparently comes from a treatise on assorted animals, including their uses in medicine; this particular passage cites uses for mice.

A mouse can be skinned, cut in two, and placed over an arrow wound to help the healing process; if a mouse is beaten into pieces and mixed with old wine, the concoction will cause hair to grow on the eyelids; if skinned, steeped in oil, and rubbed with salt, the mouse will cure pains in the lungs; sodden mice can prevent children from urinating too much; mice that are burned and converted to powder are fine for cleaning the teeth; mouse dung, prepared in various manners, is useful for treating sciatica, headache, migraine, the tetters, scabs, red bunches on the head, gout, wounds, spitting of blood, colick, constipation, stones, producing abortions, putting on weight, and increasing lactation in women.

Um... ewww! The most disturbing thing is that this doesn't sound that much more crazy than some of the "alternative medicine" practices that you hear about today.

EDIT: I'm still trying to figure out why you might want to grow hair on your eyelids. What was this person thinking? The actual source, by the way, appears to be Edward Topsell's The History of Four-footed Beasts (available from Amazon, believe it or not).

Monday, September 10, 2007

A Few Pictures from Pennsic 36

Yes, we found the camera. I've posted just a few of my Pennsic pictures here. There are more in my Flickr account.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Yet Another Chain-Letter Hoax

A very dear friend of mine forwarded an email with the following subject line…
please assist= Amber Alert =Evan Trembley
My email filters immediately flagged it as spam, although they didn’t delete it outright. I therefore have a bit of random blog material. The forwarded message says…

Please read what his mother says (below), then forward this message on. - Sometimes Internet Reports have produced remarkable results.
Warning! Warning! An email is asking us to forward it on! This can only end in disaster!

My 15 year old boy, Evan Trembley, is missing. He has been missing for now two weeks.
My usual chain-letter vetting source, Snopes.com, reports that – according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children – there is no child by that name missing.

Maybe if everyone passes this on, someone will see this child. That is how the girl from Stevens Point was found by circulation of her picture on tv. The internet circulates even overseas, South America, and Canada etc.
The bit about a girl from Stevens Point being found is a direct copy-paste from the older Ashley Flores chain letter, which is another hoax.

Please pass this to everyone in your address book. With GOD on his side he will be found.
Everyone in your address book! If that’s not a giveaway, I don’t know what is.

"I am asking you all, begging you to please forward this email on to anyone and everyone you know, PLEASE.

It is still not too late. Please help us. If anyone knows anything, please contact me at: HelpfindEvanTrembley@yahoocom
UPDATE: According to Snopes, that’s an invalid email address, but a commenter claiming to be Evan says it works (see comments). Of course, almost anyone could have created that Yahoo address in the interim, so take it as you will.

I am including a picture of him.

All prayers are appreciated! ! "It only takes 2 seconds to forward this.

If it was your child, you would want all the help you could get!!

THANK YOU
Missing child reports circulated by email are usually either so old that the child’s fate has already been determined or completely bogus. This one actually seems to have originated with Evan Trembley himself, who cut-and-pasted an email from the old “Ashley Flores” chain letter and sent it to his friends, from whom it spread like a virus across the internet.

If you’ve got a good heart and you don’t want to pass up the opportunity to just maybe, possibly help find a missing person : always Google the information in chain letters before you forward them.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Precautions

I drive a 1993 Honda Del Sol. It is the only car I ever bought new. It only seats two, but it’s comfortable, and it gets 40 mpg. It has required very little maintenance, yet it now has over 320,000 miles on the engine. I really couldn’t ask for a better car.

It does, however, have two known flaws. First, it does not have cruise control, which is occasionally a minor nuisance, but I knew about this going in and I accept it.

Second, it has no feature of any kind to warn you that you’ve left the headlights on. This has been a thorn in my side repeatedly. At night it’s not a problem, but if I’ve turned the headlights on during daylight because of rain, which stops before I reach my destination, it is extremely easy to forget to turn them off. I don’t want to recount the number of times I’ve had to jumpstart my car because of this, but I keep a set of cables in the trunk at all times in case it happens yet again.

I have a count-down alarm feature on the watch that my lovely wife gave me one year for my birthday. I keep it set for thirty minutes, and I start it whenever I have to turn my headlights on in daylight. If I remember to turn off the headlights, I generally also remember to turn off the alarm. Otherwise, if the alarm goes off, I immediately head for my car to check the lights. This precaution has saved me a jumpstart many times, including this morning.

I don’t know why Honda didn’t install a bell or other feature to notify drivers that the headlights are on when they turn off the engine. Our Honda Odyssey does it; my parent’s cars do it, but the Del Sol doesn’t. Someone overlooked something that seems innocuous but is actually pretty important to some people.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

More Boot to the Head

This one miraculously turned up as a link while I was looking at another YouTube video. It had to be posted.

Boot to the Head

I wish I could embed it, but I know of no way to do so, so you'll just have to follow the link to this Flash animation set to a Frantics skit.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

A Team Fencing Idea

As I've sometimes mentioned, an actual Renaissance duel was not necessarily a fight to the death. Plenty of people certainly died, but it wasn't a necessary outcome. The seconds or physicians of the duellists might decide to end the match on the grounds that one of the combatants could no longer continue to fight, or one fighter might concede defeat and the other accept that result as “satisfaction”. I'm therefore trying to think of a way to have a tournament in which combatants might find it advantageous to concede a match.

My thought is to have a tournament with two teams. Each time a team member wins a match against an opponent, that team scores a point. The match ends when one of the duellists either “dies” or concedes defeat. Surrendering keeps the duellist in the tournament to fight another round, but a “dead” duellist is completely out of the tournament. The tournament ends when one side runs out of duellists, and the team that scored the most points wins.

This allows some room for strategy. If you've taken a debilitating wound, you might choose to concede the match so that you can try to make up the loss in subsequent rounds. If you win more matches than you lose, you help your team. On the other hand, if your team is ahead in points and you're the last member of your team, you could choose to fight to the death; if you die, your team still wins the tournament.

Naturally, I invite commentary on this notion.

Piano Flinging

If I had time and money to waste on such endeavors, I'd build giant trebuchets, too.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Pennsic 36: The Ugly

You've heard the good (it was a lot of fun) and you've heard the bad (the weather was a pain), but this ugly story has come through on a couple of different message boards.

Saturday – Tristen kicked off war by outing a guy named Padashar posing as a knight from Trimaris.

Here is basically how it went:

He was called before the king (Rurik) and Queen (Angelic) and many members of the order of chivalry. He was charged with impersonating a knight of the realm and stealing the identity of a Knight in good standing from the Kingdom of Trimaris. He could present no proof of his pedigree. He could not recall the name of the man who knighted him, the event it happened at, or many other details that should be cemented in a knights mind forever.
I've seen knighting ceremonies; they're big deals. This is not the sort of thing a knight of the SCA is going to forget unless he has serious medical issues (like late-stage Alzheimer's).

Earl Bennen from Trimaris who knows Sir Bairn MacFearghus (the knight who's identity this man stole) stated that this man was indeed false and not who he claimed to be. He was publically stripped of his false accolades while members of the order of chivalry from many kingdoms looked on. Rurik took the false knights belt and chain and threw them behind him. A level Three Banishment was leveled upon Padashar (Mundanely Ken Weaver) exiling him from the SCA and all its functions forever. The banishment was immediately read into record by Countess Caryl. He was then allowed to gather his belongings and that having been done he was escorted to the edge of the site.

His site token was removed. He was told to leave and never return. His primary comment throughout the whole thing was "how do I get home?" To which our quick witted queen answered… "You cut and pasted you way into a peerage, now you can cut and paste your butt into a cab". He was last seen on his way to a bus station. The unfortunate victims of this treachery are the three men he took as squires. They have all been contacted and are in good spirits.
This part of the story puzzles me a bit. How long had this Padashar been impersonating Sir Bairn. It would seem a bit odd for him to show up at Pennsic and take three men as squires that he barely knew. In my experience, knights generally accept prospects into their households as men-at-arms for at least a few months before offering them a squire's belt. If there's a fishy element to this story, this is it.

One named Max has become my new Man-At-Arms. He is a great warrior, kind soul, and hard worker. We look to see great things from him.

As for Padashar (Ken Weaver) he has been cast outside SCA law. And as an outlaw he is beyond the reaches of its protection. Any citizen of AEthelmearc (indeed of the Knowne World) should ask him to leave the site of any SCA function (including fighter Practices) and if he does not leave you have the right and duty to call the Mundane Authorities and have him removed and charged with trespassing at a private function.
It's a pretty bad day when the SCA has to throw someone out of the Society forever, but pretending to hold a high station that someone else earned is a complete betrayal of the Society's values. I certainly hope there's no one out there considering a similar ruse, but if so, be certain that you will be found out and expunged.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Back from the War (Pennsic 36)

Have you ever had one of those vacations that you weren’t entirely sure was worth the effort? Don’t misunderstand, I had a good time and I wouldn’t want to give up the time I spent in the delightful company of House Ashley and the King and Queen of Gleann Abhann, but the good times came at the price of some very long drives (one of them lasting until 2:00 am) and a positively oppressive combination of blazing heat and soaking downpours. This Pennsic was a steam bath. The almost-daily rains softened the ground to the point that we had to reset our tent stakes on a daily basis. On the up side, our campsite on the “Serengeti” was reasonably high and level, and we didn’t get any large pools or puddles in our tent; I heard plenty of tales of people who had nothing dry to wear and no dry place to sleep.

In spite of the inclement weather, I managed to get in some actual SCA activity time at Pennsic.

Fencing

Almost immediately after I arrived, Jack Marvell challenged me to a duel for possession of the Iron Ring of Meridies. I like to use the traditional method of determining the terms of a duel: send your seconds to negotiate. It took us a while to find seconds, but we did manage to find some fencers willing to assist us at the Knowne World Rapier Party. My second was the lovely Lady Jovi Torstensdottir from the Kingdom of Drachenwald (specifically Sweden). I daresay I got a better second than Jack, because Lady Jovi got everything her way in the negotiations. Jack suspects her of using feminine wiles on his second.

The terms of the duel turned out to be quite unusual. To defeat my opponent, I would have to strike each of the major SCA targets – head, body, left arm, right arm, and legs – separately; multiple strikes to the same arm, for instance, would be pointless. Further, we would not be acting out the blows; if struck in the arm, for example, we could still use that arm. We would each start with a single rapier. After losing two wounds, the “injured” fighter could pick up a defensive secondary item, like a buckler or cloak. After losing four wounds, the fighter could pick up an offensive secondary, like a dagger or a second sword. We each put two wounds on the other in fairly rapid succession, and I picked up my cane while he took a buckler. From there, it was all me. At this point, I would like to again thank the very gracious Baron (Baron Quinn Kerr from the Barony of St. Swithins Bog, according to a commenter) who officiated the duel.

The Great Wall Battle was delayed a day because of rain, but otherwise went smoothly (if you count a numbers ratio of 75 for the East Kingdom against more than 200 for the Midrealm to be smooth). Meridies fought for the East as a unit, and both His Majesty Boru and Her Majesty Deidre took the field. The Great Wall Battle is fought between two lines of hay bales that represent the parapets of a city wall, there are “breaches” where the armies get up onto the “wall”, and there are three wider, square “towers” with flags. The object was to hold more flags than the other side at the end of fifteen minutes (if your side doesn’t kill off the enemy first).

The first round went well, as our lead sprinters were able to reach a flag and establish a line at a choke point before the Midrealmers, keeping them from making full use of their superior numbers. I stood between Their Majesties as we held the line against several pushes, but eventually the Midrealm made a final rush that broke the line. Her Majesty took down three of the enemy in the ensuing melee before falling herself (I was very proud), and I think I got five myself. In the second round, we found ourselves trying to take the center flag when the enemy arrived there first. Needless to say, this is a dismal proposition when you don’t have numbers on your side, and the outcome was what might be expected. I watched most of it from the outside, as I died annoyingly quickly.

The Atlantean Team Tourney took place the same afternoon (having been delayed so the war point battle could take place), and I joined Lady Ysabel de Saincte-Croix from my own shire as well as Davies, Andre, and Edmund (from various kingdoms) for the tournament. With twenty teams entered, the marshals split us into four groups who fought each other in a round-robin format. With a win-loss record of 3-2 in this first round, we ended up in a tie with two of the other teams for second place. A tie-breaker melee of all three teams at once ensued, and while we took care of one of the other teams without difficulty, the other fell upon us while we were so engaged and eliminated us. Probably just as well, it was hot out there.

Friday saw me participating in the Woods Battle, where we were once again badly outnumbered despite the defection of the kingdoms of Northshield and Trimaris to our side. We used the “death from behind” rule in this battle (as in the Wall Battle, although it wasn’t really an issue then), which is apparently typical for Pennsic (we’ve never used “death from behind” in war point battles at Gulf Wars). After being killed from behind by several sneaky gits while holding off three or four enemy fighters, I finally managed to turn the tables on one of them. Alas, one of his companions stabbed me in the face while I was gloating, but it felt quite good to get in at least one dastardly kill from the back. Toward the end of the battle, I joined an attack group lead by the Crown Princess of Trimaris, and we had just reached their flag and had numbers on our side when the final horn sounded, denying us the satisfaction of wresting at least one flag from them at the end. C’est la vie.

Following the Woods Battle, I fought a duel with Lady Ysabel for possession of the Iron Ring. Our seconds (Jack Marvell and Lord Jean-Michel) agreed to a 3-out-of-5 format in which I, as the challenged party, would choose my weapon combination from among those available (single sword, sword and dagger, sword and buckler, sword and cloak, or pair of swords/daggers) and she would then choose her own (knowing what I had taken). We took turns winning bouts until the fifth round, at which point I took advantage of the terms of the duel to choose a pair of swords. Since she could not choose the same weapons I had taken, she was left with a pair of daggers. The outcome was fairly predictable as I whittled her away from a distance (starting with a leg shot), and the Iron Ring came home with me.

Dance

Overall, I must confess that I was something of a dance slacker at Pennsic. I taught two dance classes: one for absolute beginners and the other a 16th Century Italian class for couples. The beginner dances included bransles (Cassandra, Pinagay, Charlotte, and the Official Bransle), Petit Riens (15th Century Italian), and New Boe Peep (a silly English Country dance, but very good for beginners). The Italian class consisted of Contrapasso (in Due) and Laccio d’Amore. Contrapasso went quickly and easily, as it usually does, and Laccio went surprisingly well also. I have to compliment the class on that one, because Laccio is a hard dance to learn, and difficult to call, as well. I’d like to give special thanks to Lord Gregory Blount for picking up my class on Friday the 3rd (since I wasn’t on site yet) and to whoever picked up my class on Friday the 10th (since I was participating in the rain-delayed Woods Battle).

I was particularly slack about attending the evening balls. I attended all of the Beginner Ball on Sunday and most of the Caroso Ball on Monday. Mistress Judith of Northumbria held a 15th Century Revel on Thursday night that I attended for a little while, but exhaustion had already set in from the week of heat and wet, and Francesca and I retired early. I missed the Pennsic Ball completely, which was an unexpected development.

Socializing

Francesca and I served an Indian dinner for House Ashley and the King and Queen of Gleann Abhann (and their retinue) on Saturday evening. It was a good thing we pre-made and froze everything for that meal, as getting the campsite set up took most of Saturday. The actual dinner – tandoori chicken, matar allo (spiced potatoes), tzatziki, pita bread (we never could get the naan to work), and Francesca’s rice pudding – turned out even better than the practice meals I made at home, and we received good compliments.

On Tuesday, a thunderstorm canceled pretty much all outdoor activities during the afternoon, so we stayed in camp with Her Majesty Mary Grace of Gleann Abhann (sometimes known as Her Emininence, the Goddess Victoria, and scandalously known as Mary the Marauder) playing the utterly un-period Apples to Apples and having a marvelous time socializing.

On Tuesday night, when I really should have been at the Pennsic Ball, several of us from camp went out to explore the Pennsic party scene. We actually started rather late, as another thunderstorm blew in right after dinner (which is my excuse for not getting dressed and going to the ball). When the weather died down enough for us to feel safe going out, we walked down the road to what I can only describe as the Corn Party. I’m going to leave it to the demented imaginations of my readers to decide what I saw when I looked into the “red hot Cornography” box or heard when I went into the booth to give my “Cornfession”. After engaging in these licentious activities, we moved on to the Viking Luau for a while, where a Baron I’ve never met before tried to teach me Middle Eastern dance using fencing terms. From this party we returned to camp, coaxing along a nearly legless companion who would be having a very rough morning, indeed.

Pictures

I would like to say in my defense that I did actually take some pictures at Pennsic, but, as has happened at war before, my camera went missing early in the week. We’re pretty sure that it made it back to camp, so it’s presumably in someone’s packed-up gear. Hopefully it will turn up this week, and I’ll be able to retrieve some pictures.

At Home

On an unrelated note, there was a reptile in my bathtub this morning. This lizard was about six inches long; it was dark brown with yellow, lengthwise stripes and an iridescent blue tint to its tail. It was somewhat reluctant to have me throw a towel over it and pick it up, but it returned to the great outdoors without suffering any apparent harm.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Chirp Chirp Chirp

Yes, I know. The Saga has been silent for more than a week. In my defense, I've had a bunch of work to do so that I could be ready to leave for Pennsic. Now, of course, I'm about to depart for Pennsic, which means the Saga will probably be silent for another week. The good news is that I'll probably have some interesting stories to relate when I get back.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

She’s a Princess AND a Psychic

Why is it that royal families seem to be particularly afflicted with thoughtless credulity?
Norway's Princess Märtha Louise, daughter of King Harald and Queen Sonja, has emerged as a clairvoyant, and is launching an alternative school aimed at training students to contact angels. Officials at the Royal Palace won’t comment on the princess' latest business venture.
-- http://www.aftenposten.no/english/local/article1901846.ece
She has a website, but it’s in Norwegian, which – despite my SCA persona – I am completely unable to read.

According to the news article, though, “Courses will be offered twice a week over three years, at a cost of NOK 12,000 per half-year. Students are obligated to sign up for at least one year at a time.” I’m not sure how much that is in dollars, but I’m confident that it’s money wasted.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

More Fencing Video

Again, courtesy of Jack, we have a few rounds of me fencing with... Jack.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Fencing Practice Video

Thanks to Jack, I now have a spiffy new video of Corbin stabbing me at our last fencing practice.



I know we took some more video that day, so hopefully there are more episodes forthcoming. Anyone in sports will tell you that video is your friend, as you can look at it and see all the silly mistakes that you should know better than to be making.

Monday, July 09, 2007

It's Mine... My Own... My Precious!

While I didn’t top out any of the official tournaments at Back to Basics over the weekend, I did manage to be the first to challenge Lord Reynard for the Iron Ring of Meridies.

I would like to thank Lady Ysabel de Saincte-Croix for acting as my second in this duel. In an effort to follow tradition, Reynard and I had our seconds (his being Lord John, known as Jack) decide upon the terms of the duel. This event being a demonstration event for newcomers to the SCA, the terms were to win three bouts out of five in each of the major SCA fencing styles: single sword, sword and dagger, sword and buckler, sword and cape, and case of rapiers. I managed to win the first three bouts to secure the Precious, and we went on to fight the other two just for fun.

For those interested, the Precious will be going with me to Pennsic, which is the next event at which I expect to be fencing. I’m not sure what events I may be attending after that, but with both Jack and Jean-Michel planning to be at Pennsic, I’ll be surprised if I’m still carrying the Iron Ring when I return from the war.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

A Word About Independence Day

The Fourth of July is an important day for Americans, but sometimes we forget exactly what we're celebrating. Jay Leno presented some particularly horrific examples of this forgetfulness on his "Jay-Walking" segment last Friday (June 29th). Granted, if you go out on the street recording answers to "Why do we celebrate the Fourth of July?" and air the worst answers you find, you get to hear some truly awful ignorance, but here's a more common mistake.

Some people think of the Fourth of July, 1776, as the day on which the United States gained their independence from England. That's totally wrong.

July 4, 1776, is the day on which our ancestors publicly announced that we were going to fight for our independence. It took years of war to actually win it.

It's ironic that on that day, King George III, unaware of what was happening across the Atlantic Ocean, wrote in his diary that “Nothing of great importance happened today.”

Transformers

I would like to start this article by thanking Michael Bay for not trampling my childhood memories.

While it certainly wasn’t “deep”, Transformers turns out to be a very enjoyable movie. Various plot points from the old cartoon series have been altered, but the changes all make sense and work with the original Transformers theme.

The movie does have a fairly large amount of sitcomish humor, yet it doesn’t dip into true stupidity and it moves fast enough that it’s not hard to swallow. It relieves the tension that comes with the movie’s plot, and this movie can use the relief.

There is definitely a very adult and dark side to this movie. For a movie based on a children’s cartoon series, the writers and director don’t pull any punches when it comes time for the violence. There’s a very believable ruthlessness to the way the Decepticons treat human beings and their Autobot enemies. I call this movie a complete success, and I don’t say that about many movies I see.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Death by Dish Soap

My mother sends me the occasional chain letter with some piece of sage advice or other. Don’t misunderstand; she’s beyond taking their contents for granted. She forwards them to me so I can check them out and determine whether they’re blog fodder.

Case in point…

When having a cook out. you don't like those pesky mosquitoes, especially now that they have the potential to carry the West Nile Virus?

Here's a tip that was given at a recent gardening forum.

Put some water In a white dinner plate and add a couple drops of Lemon Fresh Joy dish detergent. Set the dish on your porch, patio, or other outdoor area. Not sure what attracts them, the lemon smell, the white plate color, or what, but mosquitoes flock to it, and drop dead shortly after drinking the Lemon Fresh Joy water mixture, and usually within about 10 feet of the plate.

Check this out. It works just super! May seem trivial, but it may help control mosquitoes around your home, especially in the South and elsewhere where the West Nile Virus is reaching epidemic proportions in mosquitoes, birds, and humans.

Pass it on!
The “Pass it on!” at the end immediately makes the message suspect. It’s like a big red label that says “WARNING: Bogus chain letter spam!”. Bogus chain letter spam is seldom new, so I usually turn to Snopes.com to see if it’s already been vetted. Sure enough, this one’s BS, and it dates back to 2000.

Dishwashing liquid neither attracts nor poisons mosquitos. Female mosquitos need to extract some blood in order to lay their eggs, so they are attracted to carbon dioxide, which large animals like us produce in noticeable quantities as we breathe. While their normal diet is nectar from flowers, there is nothing about the lemon scent in dishwashing detergent that would attract mosquitos.

Granted, if the mosquitos were inclined to land in the soap dish, they would drown. Normally they can walk on the surface of water without breaking through. Soap, however, reduces the surface tension of water enough for them to be pulled under. Unfortunately, the mosquitos would have no particular inclination to land in the water dish. What absolutely won't happen is mosquitos dying of "dish soap poisoning" in a ten foot radius around the dish.

Monday, June 25, 2007

They'll Make You an Offer Ya Can't Refuse

Congratulations are in order to Lord Corbin de la Rue and Lady Ysabel de Saincte-Croix, who joined the Meridian Order of the Blade at Border Raids!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

May the Schwartz Be With You

You end up doing all kinds of incidental Arts and Sciences projects. This one started when I decided to prepare Tandoori Chicken for our cooking night at Pennsic. Naturally I wanted to do at least one test run instead of making it “cold” for the event, so I set out to acquire the ingredients.

One of the main ingredients in the Tandoori marinade is yogurt. Alas, Lord William seems to have a problem digesting cow’s milk, so Fjorleif and Juliana set out to the international groceries in search of a goat’s-milk-based yogurt.

No luck.

Undeterred, we bought some goat’s milk and some yogurt with live cultures and set out to make it ourselves. The National Center for Home Food Preservation has some nice instructions on the process.

Stage one was to mix the goat’s milk and some non-fat dry milk in a double boiler and heat it to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. This stage reportedly changes the milk proteins to keep the milk from separating into curds and whey later in the process.

The next step was to rapidly cool the milk down to about 115 degrees, a temperature at which the bacterial culture that converts milk to yogurt can thrive. Once there, my lovely assistant Juliana blended some of our “starter culture” yogurt into the milk.

With the milk “inoculated”, we put it into the oven for six hours at about 110 degrees for the microbes to have their way with the milk. This turned out to be the most tedious step in the process, as I had to check the oven every ten minutes or so to try to maintain the correct temperature. The thing doesn’t even have a 110 degree setting on its dial. The temperature actually wandered quite a bit between 100 degrees and 150 degrees in the oven, but I think the milk/yogurt itself stayed pretty close to 110.

In any case, the yogurt seemed to have set reasonably well after six hours, and I transferred it to the refrigerator to cool down to the 40 degree range, which would deactivate the microbes.

This process was difficult enough with a modern stove, oven, double-boiler, refrigerator, and so forth. My mind boggles a bit at how much more complicated this must have been centuries ago when yogurt was discovered. Of course, much of this process can probably occur naturally given the right conditions; we’ve just applied science and technology to make it more consistent and reliable.

In any case, the test of the Tandoori will occur tonight, and we’ll find out how well we do as yogurt makers.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Irony Alert

"The west is accusing Muslims of extremism and terrorism. If someone exploded a bomb on his body he would be right to do so unless the British government apologises and withdraws the 'sir' title."
-- Mohammed Ijaz ul-Haq, Pakistan's religious affairs minister, on the knighting of Salman Rushdie
OK, you're offended by the notion that "Westerners" think of Muslims as extremists or terrorists, so you try to refute the claim by suggesting that a bomb attack would be a good idea?

He didn't just shoot himself in the foot; he emptied the clip! Is he really so stupid that he doesn't see how his comments reinforce the stereotype of the extremist, terrorist Muslim? Or maybe he was foolish enough to think no one over here in the West would notice?

Please tell me there are some Muslims out there who believe this guy just did them a great disservice.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Another Chapter Down

Diverse reasons or introductions to bring thee the better unto the knowledge of they weapon.

As I may have mentioned before, I'm slowly transcribing The Schoole of the Noble and Worthy Science of Defence, a fencing manual written in 1617 by Joseph Swetnam. I managed to complete chapter six today, which is largely a treatise on why Swetnam has chosen what to include in the more technique-oriented portions of the manual, which will come later.

One point of note in this chapter is that knowing everything about fighting isn't necessary for most people. A sound knowledge of one weapon -- and the appropriate guards and attacks for it -- is sufficient for most people. He essentially paraphrases the notion that it's better to do one thing well than to do several things poorly.

I can agree with that sentiment, which is why I generally don't spend a great amount of time trying to learn the styles of other period fencing instructors like Fabris, Capo Ferro, Di Grassi, etc. I'd rather get this particular style down well than dabble in a broad assortment of techniques that may not even complement each other well. It's nice to know about them for when I face them on the field, but I'm not going to try to incorporate them into my own fighting unless they're obviously compatible.