Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Most Important Consideration in Fencing

"There is no way better to get the true observation of distance but by often practicing either with your friend or else privately in a small chamber against a wall, standing twelve feet off with your hindmost foot, and your weapon four feet long or there about, for a good guard and distance are the main and principal points of all."

-- Joseph Swetnam, The Schoole of the Noble and Worthy Science of Defence, Chapter 12

As you might guess, I've finished transcribing eleven chapters of Swetnam's book, and I'm now into chapter twelve. He's finally getting into the technical aspects of his style.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Attack of the Killer Tomatoes

A new friend of mine on the internet sent me a chain letter this morning. I don't think she knows what I usually do with such things.

It naturally starts with an all-capital-letter plea to spread the message far and wide, which immediately makes me suspect that it’s full of baloney.
So with that ominous introduction, we’ll delve into the letter’s content. Please note that I did look up this letter on Snopes, and their assessment of it is “undetermined”, meaning that they have not been able to conclusively prove it true or false. That said, the letter has been circulating since June 2006, so if it were true, it should have been possible to verify it by now.

This English teacher has phrased it the best I've seen yet.

Tomatoes and Cheap Labor


This should make everyone think, be you Democrat, Republican or Independent From a California school teacher - - - 'As you listen to the news about the student protests over illegal immigration, there are some things that you should be aware of: I am in charge of the English-as-a-second-language department at a large southern California high school which is designated a Title 1 school, meaning that its students average lower socioeconomic and income levels.
Warning sign number one: unverifiable sources. The supposed author of this story is an anonymous teacher at an unnamed high school. This means that we have no way to check the story with the source. I suppose it’s possible that someone in the California school system wanted to anonymously draw attention to a problem without placing his or her job at risk, but smart whistle-blowers go to the press, not the internet. And I don’t want to hear that the press is too liberally biased to run this: Fox News would eat it up.

Most of the schools you are hearing about, South Gate High, Bell Gardens, Huntington Park, etc., where these students are protesting, are also Title 1 schools. Title 1 schools are on the free breakfast and free lunch program. When I say free breakfast, I'm not talking a glass of milk and roll -- but a full breakfast and cereal bar with fruits and juices that would make a Marriott proud. The waste of this food is monumental, with trays and trays of it being dumped in the trash uneaten. (OUR TAX DOLLARS AT WORK)
I took the liberty of looking up Title 1 online, and there’s nothing in the rules published by the Department of Education to indicate that such an ostentatious free breakfast should be provided. I’d like to see the menu, or a purchase order, or some kind of evidence for this claim. Of course, this is a chain letter, so no such evidence is forthcoming. If it existed, I’m sure that conservative politicians and talk radio hosts would be all over it.

I estimate that well over 50% of these students are obese or at least moderately overweight. About 75% or more DO have cell phones. The school also provides day care centers for the unwed teenage pregnant girls (some as young as 13) so they can attend class without the inconvenience of having to arrange for babysitters or having family watch their kids. (OUR TAX DOLLARS AT WORK)
Oh, dear. It’s becoming a catch phrase.

I don’t know if these statistics are in any way accurate. Even if they are, I don’t see any evidence that the children of illegal immigrants are statistically more likely to be obese, have children out of wedlock, or possess a cell phone than the children of citizens.

I was ordered to spend $700,000 on my department or risk losing funding for the upcoming year even though there was little need for anything; my budget was already substantial.
I’m not sure if the “spend or lose it” concept regarding government funding is valid, but in my experience, department heads are always fighting for a bigger piece of the pie. There’s always equipment that can be improved or replaced; there are always employees that could use a raise. The idea of a department head trying to turn down money is ridiculous.

I ended up buying new computers for the computer learning center, half of which, one month later, have been carved with graffiti by the appreciative students who obviously feel humbled and grateful to have a free education in America. (OUR TAX DOLLARS AT WORK)
Again, it would be nice to have some evidence that this happened. These days, it shouldn’t be hard to get some digital images of the computers, scans of the receipts for their purchase, and assorted other bits of proof that this happened. Even assuming that it did occur, I'd like to see evidence that illegal immigrant students, and not citizen students, were the ones who caused the damage.

I have had to intervene several times for young and substitute teachers whose classes consist of many illegal immigrant students here in the country less then 3 months who raised so much hell with the female teachers, calling them 'Putas' (whores) and throwing things, that the teachers were in tears. Free medical, free education, free food, day care, etc., etc, etc. Is it any wonder they feel entitled to not only be in this country but to demand rights, privileges and entitlements?
You know, I’m hearing lots of slams against illegal immigrants (and it may surprise you to learn that I am not sympathetic to illegal immigrants – I am in favor of tighter security at the border, against giving illegal immigrants a short-cut to citizenship, against them receiving government aid intended for citizens, etc.), but I’m not seeing much support for these accusations. In particular, I’m not seeing much evidence that illegal immigrant students behave worse than citizen students in our schools.

To those who want to point out how much these illegal immigrants contribute to our society because they LIKE their gardener and housekeeper and they like to pay less for tomatoes: spend some time in the real world of illegal immigration and see the TRUE costs. Higher insurance, medical facilities closing, higher medical costs, more crime, lower standards of education in our schools, overcrowding, new diseases etc., etc, etc. For me, I'll pay more for tomatoes.
This is the standard list of complaints from anti-immigrant neo-cons. I’m not personally sure how much of these problems can be laid at the feet of illegal immigrants. We’d all like to pay less for insurance and medical care, to have less crime, to have better education, and so forth. Illegal immigrants may very well be part of the problem. Some evidence to support the claim would do more to get my support than an anonymous internet chain letter that blames every problem under the sun on illegal immigration.

Americans. We need to wake up. The guest worker program will be a disaster because we won't have the guts to enforce it. Does anyone in their right mind really think they will voluntarily leave and return? It does, however, have everything to do with culture: A third-world culture that does not value education, that accepts children getting pregnant and dropping out of school by 15 and that refuses to assimilate, and an American culture that has become so weak and worried about 'political correctness' that we don't have the will to do anything about it.
That sounds almost like a direct quote from Michael Savage, one of the most whacked out neo-conservatives in talk radio. This is the guy who read the contents of a chain letter that was known to be false on his show as if it were legitimate breaking news.

If this makes your blood boil, as it did mine, forward this to everyone you know.
This phrase is always the clincher for me. Any time a letter asks you to forward it to everyone in your address book, it’s bogus… period. There are better ways to spread a valid message; chain letters are for people who don’t care about the truth.

CHEAP LABOR? Isn't that what the whole immigration issue is about? Business doesn't want to pay a decent wage. Consumers don't want expensive produce. Government will tell you Americans don't want the jobs. But the bottom line is cheap labor. The phrase 'cheap labor' is a myth, a farce, and a lie. There is no such thing as 'cheap labor.' Take, for example, an illegal alien with a wife and five children. He takes a job for $5.00 or 6.00/hour. At that wage, with six dependents, he pays no income tax, yet at the end of the year, if he files an Income Tax Return, he gets an 'earned income credit' of up to $3,200 free.
I would truly love to see some evidence that this happens. An illegal immigrant filing a tax return? That’s just telling ICE where to come looking for him. Illegal immigrants get low wages largely because it's cash under the table that no one reports, so as not to draw government attention.

He qualifies for Section 8 housing and subsidized rent. He qualifies for food stamps. He qualifies for free (no deductible, no co-pay) health care.
It is my understanding that the Immigration Reform Act of 1996 specifically disqualifies illegal immigrants from federal entitlement programs like welfare, food stamps, and Medicaid.

His children get free breakfasts and lunches at school. He requires bilingual teachers and books.
From what I’ve been able to find, the children of illegal immigrants are entitled to use the public K-12 education system, but as far as I know, there is no legal requirement to treat illegal immigrant children any differently from citizen children.

He qualifies for relief from high energy bills. If they are or become, aged, blind or disabled, they qualify for SSI. Once qualified for SSI they can qualify for Medicare. All of this is at (our) taxpayer's expense. He doesn't worry about car insurance, life insurance, or homeowners insurance. Taxpayers provide Spanish language signs, bulletins and printed material. He and his family receive the equivalent of $20.00 to $30.00/hour in benefits. Working Americans are lucky to have $5.00 or $6.00/hour left after paying their bills and his. The American taxpayers also pay for increased crime, graffiti and trash clean-up.
You know, I don’t feel any obligation to work through this laundry list of dubious claims. It would just be tiresome, and I’m not the one with the burden of proof. I think I’ve done enough to show the questionable honesty of this chain letter; throwing out a bunch of unsupported claims and insisting they’re true until proven false is a liar’s game.

And it finishes with a bit of internet screaming, including another plea to forward the letter to everyone in your address book… or else.

It’s a chain letter, and it’s trash. Please don’t forward this to other people; forward it to your garbage bin.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Midwinter A&S

I attended the Midwinter Arts & Sciences Collegium down in the Barony of South Downs over the weekend. This was a pretty relaxed event for me, since I didn't have anything entered. I really went expecting to spend the day judging entries in Performing Arts, but there turned out to be only one entry, with no shortage of judges. That was, in fact, the story in just about every category: few entries, plenty of qualified judges. Nonetheless, I did find myself appointed as judge for the Brewing and Vinting category. Yes, I took one for the team and helped judge Kojin's beer.

We may have set an odd precedent in the course of the judging. Baron Kojin had submitted a comparison of two substantially different brewing methods using the same recipe. He used the same proportions of malt, water, yeast, and other ingredients, but he prepared one batch of beer using modern equipment and methods while preparing a second batch following the period instructions as closely as possible. The period method involved boiling grain, draining wort, setting it aside to cool while boiling more grain, draining that, reboiling the first wort and draining it again, etc. The period method basically took twice as long, because modern technology to help extract sugars and protiens from grain wasn't available.

Interestingly enough, we all agreed that the period method produced a better product.

As to the odd precedent, Kojin entered the beer in the Brewing and Vinting category, but we judges all agreed that his project wasn't so much about the beer as it was about researching, reproducing, and comparing the period process. We therefore filled out a second entry form for him in the Historical Technology category and judged the whole thing again for that category.

Kojin got 18/20 for his Brewing and Vinting entry and 19/20 for the Historical Technology entry. Alas, he did not win top honors for the Midwinter A&S faire, as someone brought a kick-ass silk-production project (from worms to final fibers) that scored 20/20.

There was another combined European/Middle-Eastern revel at Midwinter A&S. While I appreciate the sentiment, I still think trying to alternate between the two in the same "ball" is a bit schizophrenic.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Winter Collegium

I traveled south to An Dun Theine on Saturday to teach dance at their Winter Collegium. A fun event, as always, and especially nice because we had a local chamber music group play for us at lunch. They were not actually SCA people, just local musicians that someone in the SCA happened to know. I'm hoping that some of them will become SCA people in the future, though. I had a few attend my dance classes that afternoon, and I sent them home with some reference material on dance (a Saltare handbook from a previous year).

I originally planned to teach Contrapasso and Contrapasso Nuovo, but seeing that I had a room to myself for as long as I wanted it, I spent pretty much the whole afternoon teaching various dances. We did some basic English Country Dances, a few of the easier Mixed Bransles, and came back round to Contrapasso variations toward the end of the day.

Time well spent, I think, even if I am running myself ragged this month.