Thursday, April 9, 2020

News You Can't Use (Say what?)

U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Colville McFee

So, I've been stashed at Chez Sarge since the 16th of March, awaiting assignment, as it were. Actually I've been in that status since January as the money for the project I was working was radically slashed. This means that our particular business is doing well, we are also hiring people. In the old days when there wasn't enough work to keep us all busy, some were redeployed to other locations, others were invited to seek employment elsewhere. Some of you may remember my sojourn "up north" in the Bay State from January 2010 to August of 2012, then again for about six months in 2013. Hey, the work was interesting and paid well.

Now things are different, we have work coming in, though it's a "the check is in the mail" kind of a thing. I have learned that from signing a contract with the customer to actually starting work can be a rather drawn out process. That being said, a few of us are gainfully employed by waiting. As I was in the military (okay, the Air Force) I used to be rather proficient at this whole "hurry up and wait" thing. Not a problem, I am rather well paid to do what I'm told. With this virus-thingee that has meant "working from home" for going on four weeks.

But that, my friends, is about to change. Yes, the money faucet has been turned on again for my old team, the folks I love working with and missed dearly over the past cuppla fortnights. I will be returning to my old haunts and the job I know best soon, very soon. No need to find a different project to work on, my old buddy George (USNA Class of 2001) is running one piece of the project and he assures me that this will be long term, no more "Sorry Sarge, but stop charging that contract."

Of course, that means I will have to make the occasional appearance at the Home Office (no, not the one in the UK) for to do certain aspects of the job which can't be done remotely. Lab assets are on rather a closed circuit dontcha know? Can't have just anybody wandering in, now can we?

Now there is a risk involved, what with needing to be around other people, that virus-thingee dontcha know? Masks I have, gloves I have, I'm not worried on that account, it's the idea of possibly having a lapse and touching something contaminated. Truth be told, I'd rather have the gear I had back in the day (see opening photo) when I was on the NBC Decontamination Team at my base in NATO. (NBC stands for Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical - our job was to decontaminate personnel, vehicles, and equipment what had been, ya know, contaminated with agents of such a nature. Our job was not twisting the nightly news into something not recognizable as truth to a rational person.)

Though the gear was cumbersome, damned uncomfortable, and not very stylish, it was damned effective at protecting the ape lizard encased within.

Anyhoo, the work will mostly be "working from home" until May, and rather part time in nature until we get fully ramped up. But it's damned good to go back to my old team and see my mates again. Good times!


In this nearly four weeks of working from home, I have not been slacking. Much. Have any of you availed yourselves of Osprey's free eBook offer since Scott the Badger brought it to our attention a week or so ago? No? You should. No, really. Here are the books I have "bought" over the past two weeks -

At first I was kinda picky about which books I wanted, then I realized, they are all history books, what's more, they are military history books. Right up my alley dontcha know? Definitely in my wheelhouse and to the Scots blood I have in me, they are free, gratis, don't cost nothing, so there's that. Want to get in on this deal? Go here, create an account, it's super easy, so easy an MBA could do it, then look for this (ya might have to scroll a wee bit, stop your whinging) -

Click on Free eBooks. There, that was easy, wasn't it?

I haven't just been "buying" free eBooks to while away my days in Sparkling Isolation, nay, not at all. There are computer games as well to keep my mind active and keep me from annoying The Missus Herself. I only buy the ones that are on sale or under twenty bucks (unless it's something I really, really, really want, to satisfy my inner ten year old boy).

I generally get my computer game fix from Steam, though there are a cuppla others, Steam is my go to site. Here are my latest acquisitions -

I will warn you though, I typically play against the computer, because the computer isn't all that bright in most cases. Humans on the other hand? Devious, cunning, nasty, and implacable. In other words, I suck playing against other ape lizards, suck badly as a matter of fact. Still and all, I have been sore tempted to enter the lists, just to see how bad I really am.

Yeah, that's gonna leave a mark.


  1. This month has been a hard hit. We've been working, no problem there, but the personal side has been brutal.

    I'm ready for a rest. But none in sight yet.

  2. I’ve been stuck working at home for the last four weeks, and yesterday they started announcing cuts to our hours...

    1. Well, that sucks.

      Hopefully you dodge that bullet!

    2. Well, I’m taking classes, and have a second job as a TA for another class, so maybe I can use the extra 8-16 hours a week of free time I’ll be getting? Sucks about the lost income, though.

  3. Good to hear!
    Beats the daylights out of any doom and gloom news.

    1. I try not to do doom and gloom, unless it's historical, happened in the past, doom and gloom.

      Historians stay away from current events as there is often not enough (any?) factual data to support studying an event in any depth nor to draw any reasonable conclusions from that/those events. The recent TR and SecNav event is a prime example.

  4. That "Samurai 1550-1600" book was written by an acquaintance of mine. Yes, I knew Anthony J. Bryant. Interesting fellow. One of the few white guys (as a description, and, well, a curse if you're Japanese) who was allowed to hang out with the National Treasures and learn the secrets. He made himself a full suit of 1560's style armor from laquered silk and bamboo, using the correct ancient formulae. Actually, he made 2. And destroyed 1 in an attempt to find out how effective the armor was. Answer? Very effective against slashes and bashes, pretty good against arrows even, though it sucked against lance-thrusts from horses, being smashed with giant maces (tetsubo) and matchlock muskets and wheel-lock pistols. The way to defeat the armor was to slash the cording or stab the unarmored parts or knock the other guy down and then stab the other parts (just like European armor at the time...) The fumes from the lacquer? Toxic as copulation.

    He wrote several other Osprey series regarding Japan. Collect them all!

    He even went to write a book on the Yakuza, and couldn't get anywhere past vague stories and allusions, so he just wandered around Tokyo looking for overly tattooed people, and then stood outside one business that he identified as a potential target, taking pictures, for weeks at a time. Finally a polite potentially overly-tattooed person came out (wearing a suit) and politely asked Anthony what the copulation he was doing there, oh so politely, in English. Anthony said, in Japanese, that he had written several authoritative books on medieval Japan and now he was interested in the Yakuza. Polite Japanese gentleman told him to wait, and wandered back across the road. About 10 minutes later a flight of polite potentially overly-tattooed people came out, surrounded him, and politely asked him to come meet someone, politely. Anthony politely accepted and in about 10 minutes he was sitting in front of the local god-father of the local clan who very politely asked Anthony what he thought he was doing. Anthony again reiterated his story, and pulled out several of his books, upon which then said god-father person said, in very good English, "You're the Anthony J. Bryant? The writer? Hahahahahaa, I've been wanting to meet you for years." And then he had Anthony sign his collection of Anthony's books.

    Long story short, Anthony was allowed to observe and write his book about the Yakuza, being passed from one clan to another, all thought it was a wonderful idea, and were all very happy and polite and Anthony totally understood that only the Yakuza will ever read his book on the Yakuza, until some time way after he was dead. But the book is written, waiting for the Yakuza to give the go-ahead to publish the book, which will be The book on the Yakuza, well, at least until around 2005.

    What is interesting was that once he was identified as The Anthony J. Bryant, he found out that they knew everything about him. Everything. Like EVERYTHING. Where he was staying, what his favorite meals were, his SCA Name and Title, his research into Japanese armor and they found that shooting a set with an actual, okay, wheel-lock pistol was a very interesting concept.

    Very interesting man. Sad he died. But that's, unfortunately, how life is.

    1. After reading that I feel a deep sense of loss. The man was a treasure, I did some more reading on him, he died far too young.

      I have his book on Sekigahara.

      I would have liked to have met him, maybe in the afterlife...

    2. By the time I met him, socially he was neither fish nor foul nor good red meat. He was too Japanese to really fit in with Anglos, and too Anglo to really fit in with Japanese.

      He could play the perfect Japanese, or perfect American, but only so far. Kind of lost somewhere between the two cultures. A mind and soul made for academia, not for the 'real' world.

      Which, of course, meant his sense of humor was also out of kilter, and therefore I found it quite funny and wicked.

    3. I've known folks like that. It has to be tough trying to be part of two worlds.

    4. It happens with veterans, too, or very-red-state people moving to very-blue-state.

    5. Or the guy who was a sergeant who wanted to be an officer, then after college became disgusted with the whole idea.

      That was me for a while, neither fish nor fowl.

  5. As to the Joust. Good on you as to using the correct terminology. List is the barrier between the horses, and also a nickname for the field where the list is set up, medievally speaking. You are now better at medieval terms than about 90% of SCA people.

    Field - where the list is set up
    List - barrier between horses.
    Tourney - what the fun game is you play on the field and between the list, either by jousting, or by mounted or foot combat.

    How hard can it be? Yet here we are, over 50 years of playing and they still can't get the terms right.

    Oy vey!

    As to the video, that was real jousting.

    Okay. Here it goes. So at many Ren-Faires, they have... stage jousting. Which is kind of like professional wrestling. Yes, very physical, very scripted, but still blood and smashing and pain and hitting. So most 'jousting' you will ever see is mostly scripted with a fudge factor to allow for chance to occur. And they joust with closet poles, which blow up spectacularly while not imparting a lot of energy into the hit. Still a decent amount, but they hit less hard than you think.

    Then there's the professional real jousters, which was what that TV show was following. A real, monied jousting league, where the hits were real, people got hurt, the whole nine yards. Hurt up to and including the infamous sliver to the eye. If you've ever seen the Heath Ledger movie about jousting (the horse scenes are great, the rest is crap) there is a line about how Heath's character is so brave, he doesn't even tilt his head back.

    So, in a late period jousting competition, the helmet is designed in such a way that the bottom of the eye slot is sufficiently in front of the top of the eye slot that the only way one can see out of the helm is to tilt slightly forward (take two fingers, bottom one sticking out about an inch in front of the other one, roll your hand down until you can see between the fingers) and that's what you do when you are charging at the opponent. Then rock back slightly (roll hand back up until you can't see between them) and suddenly the slot disappears which means no giant sliver can go through your eye and into your brain. That's real jousting.

    Stage jousting, still possible (still possible to kill or injure someone in pro-wrestling, too, but not very often.)

    I used to fight with someone who at one time did real jousting. Fun guy. He said there's a technique to stay in the saddle when your horse goes down such that you basically walk off the stirrups and onto the ground. Takes timing and not having a broken femur. Which he tried one day when his femur got broken through his armor and knocked his horse off it's feet.

    And that's why the List is so important. It's primary function isn't to keep the horses separate, it's to keep the lance point from going lower than hip height of the man, thus not injuring the... horse.

    1. I rather knew that you would like that video. I also knew that you would know the theory behind it.

      Thanks Beans, you never disappoint.

    2. Tracked my ancestors back in France, on my father's side, to Henry the Jouster. So sharp objects coming towards my eyes really bother me. :)

      (Henry the J, French King, was assassinated during a tourney when a tourney joust had a sharp point under the jousting end (kind of like putting a shiv inside a boxing glove.) So, hit on head shattered the fake jousting crownel, and sharp pointy end penetrated his eyeslot.)(Hey, they even made a Roger Moore movie about it...)

      And, of course, the Germans had to go all mechanical. They actually perfected an 'exploding' breastplate. A spring-powered set of plates, latched together, was let go if the target area was correctly hit, thus flinging the fake breastplate parts everywhere. (Of course, being German, there was a real breastplate that all the mechanical stuff was attached to.)

    3. How very French, and how very German.


    4. The bit about participants not knowing the terminology.
      Lack of knowledge is rampant today.
      They don't care enough.
      Ask 'em who was the first President.

    5. Beans, do I detect a smidgen of disdain for stage jousting? Yeah, this was real, but real is also dangerous a heck, even with the nice tinfoil suit. Sarge, good for you for digging into your reading list. I have a bedside table with a small stack and I'm still plodding through the one I've had there since well before the virus. It's not all that good so it doesn't pull me in, but I gotta finish what I started.

    6. Skip - Lack of knowledge explains much in this country.

    7. Tuna - Have to keep the brain active while in Sparkling Isolation!

    8. Oh, no disdain for stage jousters. It is a very physical semi-sport. I respect the heck out of the guys, just like I respect professional TV wrestlers. They both are tremendously fit, and work very hard to make their actions seem larger than life. Still a tough profession, but more like stuntmen than sports stars. (I also respect the heck out of stuntmen.)

      So stage jousting is semi-choreographed stunt-work. And then gets totally staged when it breaks into foot combat (unless someone is pissed off, then it occasionally breaks down to real fighting.)

      Sport Jousters, on the other hand, choreograph the displays of arms, of the introductions and all that. But once they enter the Lists, then it becomes who can knock the carp out of the other better and score points for hits. Kind of like boxing, with knockouts being knocked off one's mount.

      I love watching any jousting. Just, well, real sport jousting is very much who's the best, who has the best horse, who has the best training, who has the best seat on his (or her) horse.

      I also like watching professional wrestling, just can't stand all of the pageantry and shouting that goes with it. I also watch Sumo wrestling, Highland Game style wrestling, and am fascinated with the idiots that do backyard wrestling.

    9. Beans, understood. Impressive athletes all the same.

  6. Some real jewels here. End of warring lords era in Japan. Green Debils. Hurricane. Medieval Poles with polearms. AK-47 of antitank business. Sw33t!

    1. Green Devils, of course. Freudian key slip?

    2. Paweł #1 - When I saw the book on Polish medieval armies, I did think of you. Heh, Poles with pole-arms, love it.

    3. Paweł #2 - I see what you did there. 😁

    4. Unless Pawel has been watching Adam Sandler's "The Waterboy." That would explain 'Debils.'

  7. Yea!! Ya get to go back and work with your team!! Awesome!!!
    You will be fine with the whole virus thingy...just remember to NOT TOUCH YOUR FACE and Wash Your Hands. When in doubt, when not sure what to do, when the file is uploading...guess what ya do??? (All together now) WASH YOUR HANDS :)
    Furthermore, if anyone is rude enough to cough or sneeze on you, smack them upside the head--Hard. You are NOT allowed to get sick!!
    This concludes this PSA.

    PS: Not only is that hit gonna leave a mark---Dude---Ya need a new Lance--On the other hand you are set for fire wood for tonight's campfire...

    1. Yes, The Missus Herself and The WSO have been beating me about the head and shoulders about the no face touching and the hand washing. Do you know when your face itches? When you can't touch it. I will be so glad when this thing subsides. Anyone sneezes or coughs on me will get DiNozzo'ed big time!

      Heh, all set for firewood. I'll betcha that hurt like heck!

    2. The only time my face itches is when I have to put on that silly duck bill mask...then it itches like CRAZY!!
      Sigh. But I don't itch, until after I hae the masks off, (I have to wear 2) AND have washed my hands...with soap and water, not just hand sanitizer.

      I will be sooo glad when this is all over!!!


Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)