Print Story I found temples made out of paper
By TheophileEscargot (Sat Jun 21, 2008 at 09:55:06 PM EST) Reading, Watching, MLP (all tags)
Reading: "Black and Blue". "Let's Electrify". "Hawkwood: Diabolical Englishman". Watching. Web.

What I'm Reading
Eighth Rebus detective novel: Black and Blue. I kind of missed the point in this one: it mixes fact and fiction but I wasn't aware of the factual bits. The plot features a real serial killer active in the Sixties who tries to track down a fictional serial killer who is imitating his methods. Still a good read though, complicated multi-stranded plot. Also has Rebus travelling out of his normal haunts to Glasgow and Aberdeen (Furry Boot Town).

What I'm Reading 2
Grabbed a comic from the library which looked interesting. NYC Mech: Let's Electrify by Ivan Brandon and Miles Gunter. Didn't really click with me though. The characters are drawn as robots but act and function like normal human beings: eat, smoke cigarettes, have sex, and apparently use the toilet. Except in some ways things seem to be different: there are kitchen robots of ambiguous sentience. Sometimes they're seemingly hurt by punches, sometimes fingers get shot off without apparently causing much pain.

So, found it hard to get involved. Never thought I'd say this, but human beings might have been better than robots.

What I'm Reading 3
Hawkwood: Diabolical Englishman by Frances Stonor Saunders. Biography of the famous mercenary, following his life from twoccing a plough-horse in 14th century Essex to a lavish state pension, funeral and Duomo memorial in Florence, Along the way he fought in the Hundred Years war in France, blockaded the Pope in Avignon as part of the Great Company, took part in the massacre of Cesena and changed sides a bewildering number of times.

It's a fascinating story, and Saunders fills it out with plenty of detail from what was happening at the time, as the medieval world was edging into the Renaissance. Europe was riven by wars: the Hundred Years war in France, and the city-state wars in Italy were complicated by the attempted return of the Popes to Rome, then the fission into Pope and Antipope, supported by rival powers. Not that peace made much difference, as the soldiers would immediately turn into bandits and mercenaries, who would then rampage around pillaging and demanding enormous bribes in protection rackets. For light relief, you had the plague.

The mercenaries were dynamically organized, with accountants and lawyers as well as camp followers and armourers. A company would be a couple of hundred men, but they would then join into thousands-strong units like the Grand Company: these were pretty much the same size as conventional armies of the day. (The English army at Agincourt was 6,000 strong).

The companies were made up of smaller units of just three men, called a Lance, mounted and wearing light armour. There would be one mounted soldier, one archer, and one page. This gave them an impressive flexibility. Mounted, they were hugely mobile. In battles, while the page held the horses they would fight dismounted, the archer and soldier wielding the same heavy lance as part of a tight hedgehog-like formation. Or when necessary the archers could separate to form their own groups with tremendous firepower. When storming a fortification the archers would lay down covering fire while the soldiers used ladders to scale walls.

It seems to me that while the Italian city-states often get a lot of criticism for relying on mercenaries, opposing these guys with volunteers was a bit of a non-starter. It must have required a lot of skill and experience to do the rapid manoeuvring of the Lances, not to mention that you needed horses. Charging the tight, disciplined, formations with traditional armoured knights was impossible. When Siena tried to oppose Hawkwood with a citizen army, they were hopelessly outmatched: he cut their supply lines and waited till thirst and starvation forced them into a suicidal charge.

The weakness of the book is a lack of information. Saunders' research seem very thorough, but while a lot is known about some periods of Hawkwood's life, down to detailed inventories, there are huge gaps. Almost nothing is known about his part in wars in France, for instance.

Also he left no letters and cultivated a reputation as a man of few words: it's hard to get a feeling of what his actual character was like. He could be utterly ruthless, but he also tried hard to provide for his friends and family, purchasing cushy church jobs for his illegitimate sons. Was he just a man struggling to survive in a harsh, dog-eat-dog time? Was his brutality calculated and his mercy sincere, or was he brutal by nature but pragmatic enough to be merciful? Did he suffer painful pangs of conscience for bloodbaths like Cesena, or was it just another day at the office? We'll never know.

Overall though, an interesting book on an interesting guy.

What I'm Watching
Doctor Who was really good again: loved the world without the Doctor. Thought they'd settled into a comfortable semi-mediocrity, but they've had a really good run with the last three episodes.

What I'm Not Watching
Watched the first hour of The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford but don't think I'll be carrying on. Partly it's that it's so slow and nothing happens, partly that you know how it's going to end, partly it's that it seem like watching ten minutes of Unforgiven only in slow motion... but mostly it's that really annoying ding... ding... incidental music.

Star Wars opening crawl generator.

Socioeconomics. School starting age doesn't matter. Why we should love the price gougers.

YouTube: Ants eat dead gecko.

Complaints over lego snacks.

Problems with the concept of Internet addiction.

Attempt to game Microsoft search bribes
Phase 1: Buy $630 in cash for $714
Phase 2: Pocket 35% of price in bribe from Microsoft
Phase 3: Profit.

Students ignorant of Christianity (via theophiles, alt link)

The only place the course backfires is in the unit on Christianity. Students who have spent every Sunday of their lives in church may be able to name the books of the Bible in order, but they rarely have any idea how those books were assembled. They know they belong to Victory Baptist Church, but they do not know that this makes them Protestants, or that the Christian tree has two other major branches more ancient than their own. Very few have heard of the Nicene Creed. Most are surprised to learn that baptism is supposed to be a one-time thing.

... The things I tell students are so different from the things they have heard in church that I can hear their brains straining against the waves. They never noticed that Matthew and Luke tell different stories of Jesus' birth, or that Mark and John tell no such stories at all. They never imagined that the first Christians did not walk around with New Testaments in their pockets. No one ever told them about Constantine, Augustine, Benedict or Martin Luther. They never thought about what happened during the centuries between Jesus' resurrection and their own professions of faith. In their minds, they fell in line behind the disciples, picking up the proclamation of the gospel where those simple fishermen left off.

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I found temples made out of paper | 18 comments (18 topical, 0 hidden)
Christianity or "own religion" by Alan Crowe (4.00 / 1) #1 Sun Jun 22, 2008 at 03:00:29 AM EST
I found the "ignorant of Christianity" link fascinating. I suspect that all big religions are in the same situation, with a disconnect between the folk faith that one gets from ones parents and the formal teachings.

The thing that triggers my suspicions is a story in the Scotsman Newspaper about Buddhists in India. They were terribly pleased to have a new living Buddha in their midst. They knew he was a Buddha because he didn't have to eat food any more. He had perfected an austerity.

What makes this funny is knowing traditional Buddhism. The Buddha starts as an ordinary man, trying to obtain enlightenment, whatever that is, by following the standard ascetic practises of his day, mostly meditating and fasting. He gives up the fasting. With some decent grub inside him, he is able to meditate more deeply and becomes enlightened. He goes on to teach the middle way: don't pig out, but don't starve yourself either.

So using the magical ability to do with out food as the mark of a Buddha is a huge WTF.

It might be other things too by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #5 Sun Jun 22, 2008 at 08:38:02 AM EST
For instance, the separation of Church and State in the US might mean there's less religious education in schools, leading to a more sectarian focus.

Or it might be the strong emphasis on sola scriptura among evangelical protestants in particular.
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?

[ Parent ]
"Don't pig out?" by Herring (4.00 / 2) #6 Sun Jun 22, 2008 at 09:23:57 AM EST
Then how come Buddha was such a fat bastard?

You can't inspire people with facts
- Small Gods

[ Parent ]
That's a by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #7 Sun Jun 22, 2008 at 09:35:46 AM EST
Different Buddha.
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?
[ Parent ]
Don't make me read Hesse again [n/t] by Herring (4.00 / 1) #8 Sun Jun 22, 2008 at 10:01:29 AM EST

You can't inspire people with facts
- Small Gods

[ Parent ]
That Straight Dope link, by ambrosen (4.00 / 1) #10 Sun Jun 22, 2008 at 12:34:10 PM EST
would be a bit better had it not had an ad for Gay Chubby Dating on the page.

[ Parent ]
Odd, I got by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #12 Sun Jun 22, 2008 at 08:36:58 PM EST
Buddhism Information UK
A structured course on Buddhism, Buddhist study and meditation.

Carved Buddhas for Sale
Laughing, Dancing, & Thai Buddhas Unbelievably low prices.

Buy a Buddha statue
Buy outstanding garden accessories from this Hungerford supplier.

Who knows why Google serves up the ads it does.
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?

[ Parent ]
The trouble is by ambrosen (4.00 / 1) #9 Sun Jun 22, 2008 at 11:14:04 AM EST
that it's not really folk faith that's causing all the Christian misconceptions, it's the formal teachers. I'd be inclined to put it down to sola scriptura, like Theophile Escargot does. I think that the basic problem with that is that it removes all wider context from the interpretation, which is why these students have never noticed the two different yet infallible (I don't know to what extent they're consistent) accounts of The Nativity, and the two missing ones.

And, yeah, it seems that one of them thinks there's five gospels, which I guess can only be because they've been spoonfed, and made to rely on one person's interpretation as authoratitive. And they consider it so authoratitive that they can't find things out for themselves.

It's bizarre to me. And, well, it looks rather like another religion, namely Islam. But at least their book was written by one person. And they worship him as author and prophet, so there's some combining structure. With the Protestants, well, they don't even know they're wrong.

[ Parent ]
It's funny by Scrymarch (4.00 / 1) #11 Sun Jun 22, 2008 at 03:17:14 PM EST
I learnt about Martin Luther in tenth grade history but the American school system with all its compulsory civics and humanities seems to have no time for him.

Just to segue onto a largely different topic, this is why periodic calls to teach more Australian history in school are stupid. If American history becomes meaningless stripped of its world historical context, how much more for Australia ...

The Political Science Department of the University of Woolloomooloo

[ Parent ]
When I lived in a Muslim country .... by Tonatiuh (4.00 / 1) #14 Mon Jun 23, 2008 at 04:06:00 AM EST
... I used  to remind people in my office that Mohamed's first wife was 15 years his senior, used to chase them to got to Friday prayer, and knew where the prayer room was.

Once in the UK I have teased more than one Muslim friend reminding them during Ramadan that they should not eat and that chicken isn't necessarily  halal.

[ Parent ]
School age by ucblockhead (4.00 / 1) #2 Sun Jun 22, 2008 at 06:22:58 AM EST
He's only shown that it doesn't matter in the narrow metric of earning potential.

I've lived this argument in my house. My mother, with a school teacher background, is firmly in the "get them in as young as possible because smarter kids1 kids will get bored" camp. My wife, a current school teacher, is firmly in the "young kids, especially boys, aren't as socially ready for kindergarten" camp.

In my state, the cutoff is December 10th and my son was born the 20th of November. For any kid born after around September, it is up to the parents. His older cousin was born right around the same time, and lives in New Mexico, which sets the cutoff at September 30th, something I've heard no end of complaints about.

The arguments that convinced me the most were the social and emotional ones. He'll get more time to figure out what the hell he wants to do with life. He'll be generally the oldest, biggest, most experienced kid in his grade.

But I'm not wedded to any of the arguments, really. People are too individual in their growth rates.

1My mother's implicit assumption is that all kids in the family are of course much smarter than average. I make no such claims.
[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman

Most kids are smarter than average. by ambrosen (4.00 / 2) #3 Sun Jun 22, 2008 at 07:02:13 AM EST
According to that set of tests which finds that average intelligence rises over time.

That said, parents who are able to take their time to make detailed decisions about what kind of education might be best for their children will probably have smarter children than the average child, too.

That said, who cares? They still end up as a person. And yeah, people are cool. Especially if they're family. And littler than you. I hear tell that they're coolest of all if you made them. Sadly I have no first hand experience of that.

[ Parent ]
Not just earnings by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #4 Sun Jun 22, 2008 at 08:35:13 AM EST
Our measure of performance is the military enrolment IQ test scores (when students are around age 18), which is taken by almost all children.
We also study the effects of school starting age on longer-term outcomes including educational attainment, early fertility, and adult earnings.

It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?
[ Parent ]
Who by Merekat (4.00 / 1) #13 Mon Jun 23, 2008 at 04:05:54 AM EST
I really didn't like it. It wasn't as bad as the ancient Rome one but I really don't like the Donna Noble character and I couldn't work out what had happened to Rose's teeth and why she was talking like she was drunk and had a mouthful of cotton wool. Yeah, the premise was good but the execution sucked.

Voices by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #16 Mon Jun 23, 2008 at 08:08:26 AM EST
Apparently she had problems "finding her voice" again, according to Metachat anyway.

One annoyance I have is that since my parents moved away from London when I was a kid, my accent gets more Londonish when I'm stressed... but I can't do it deliberately at all.

If I ever start sounding like Ray Winstone, it is generally a sign that I'm about to hit someone. It would be much handier if I could put on the voice as a warning before I get to that point...
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?

[ Parent ]
Doctor Who by nebbish (4.00 / 1) #15 Mon Jun 23, 2008 at 04:12:20 AM EST
Nuclear war? Genocide? Pretty bloody dark for 7pm on a Saturday evening.

It's funny, the last two episodes are the first ones I've seen since Billie Piper was his assistant. I seemed to have timed that quite well. Last week's claustrophobic episode was brilliant.

It's political correctness gone mad!

Seems to be what they call by TheophileEscargot (4.00 / 1) #17 Mon Jun 23, 2008 at 08:09:44 AM EST
A bottle show. Very good though: I think they have to use their imagination more if they can't lean on a new monster or set or whatever.
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?
[ Parent ]
Low budget by nebbish (4.00 / 1) #18 Tue Jun 24, 2008 at 03:42:18 AM EST
Often means more imagination, you're right.

It's political correctness gone mad!

[ Parent ]
I found temples made out of paper | 18 comments (18 topical, 0 hidden)