Thursday, August 30, 2007


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.