Monthly Archives: April 2007

Out sick

Left work early with a bad cold, and am missing Irish Class tonight. I feel bad about that. I have missed two classes this April, while I only missed one in the previous year. But I have no energy, and I certainly do not want anyone else in my class to catch my cold.

No energy–other good things about Charles City which I want to mention, but deserve more discussion than I can manage now …The crossbow with the purpleheart stock in the SCA camp….the woodworker there who, like me, is a disciple of St. Roy (but he is far more advanced)….The trebuchet….the nuns with the Irish Gaelic Prayers (mia_mcdavid can say more about them).

colgaffneyis at Charles City

colgaffneyis participated in the Charles City Military History Days this weekend. It was great! It was a “time line” event–reenactors of various times and places through history. Doing 1630 we were very much on the early side, which gave us a lot more scope. Armies of that era tried to be as self-sufficient as possible, so we, as usual, included a wide range of civilian life along with the pikes, muskets, and mortars. So did an SCA group camped next to us. By contrast the 20th century groups (World War II forces representated included the US 101stAirborne, the Red Army, and the Wehrmacht) were purely military.

Note, I am not claiming any moral high ground. I enjoyed firing one of our matchlock muskets, and helping out in the artillery crew for our mortars. Interestingly, the actually procedure for artillery firing changed very little between our era (1630) and the American Civil War (both sides were represented).

For our part, the event went off extremely well. I might get in trouble if I claimed this in an official colgaffneyis publication, but since this is my blog I can say the credit for this is due to excellent staff work–our Chief of Staff is mia_mcdavid. We were missing some of our best members for dealing with the practicalities of camp life, but we were able to manage quite well anyway. rhymeswithghoti did a great job as Captain, managing our limited military “man”power very well and proving to be an excellent time traveller, handling creative and entertaining interactions with our weekend neighbors from elsewhen. bullettheblue gave the Sutler’s table the best event I have yet seen for it, while also participating in the pike line and the artillery crews. c_nocturnum and her husband were always around and helping out. AC and AP were always cheerful and willing to help out. BB, our Head Camp follower, kept us very well fed and did an excellent job with the logistics of the kitchen. The meals were great and the cleanup and dishwashing were done without pain or complaint.

Special thanks to our new Wisconsin members, L and J, who hauled most of our gear down in their van and were cheerful and enthusiastic about helping wherever they could around camp.

In looking around at the wider event, I particularly enjoyed our Native American participants. At one point a WW II crew (I think I recognized both American and Luftwaffe uniforms) came by with a small artillery piece, and “opened fire” on their tents. The moderns had a little trouble with the gun, and the natives (who we know from the Rendezvous circuit) leaped out and fired with their flintlock muskets. Then they hid, only to spring from behind the cover of a couple tents and jump on the modern crew with their war clubs. Their moves were great–it looked like something out of the recent PBS show on the French and Indian War.

Perhaps more later–it was a great time….


I bought a few books at Penguicon, mainly because it was a chance to buy from an independent book dealer, and in fact a dealer I remembered from Chicagoland cons. Since the demise of Irish Books and Media I have become even more conscious of how small book sellers are threatened by the chains, and by you-know-who on the Internet.

Of course, this is not easy. Even with my rather odd interests, you-know-who has some books with a better price than I can find elsewhere. So I have to think about how much extra I am willing to pay to help the independents.

Today haddayr got me off the hook on one such case: She showed me where the book in question (or at least the text thereof) was available free on the Internet. But I cannot really count on that happening very often.

Return from Penguicon.

Later last night mia_mcdavid and I watched ice cream being made with liquid nitrogen , then ate some of the results. It was a good, rich ice cream.

Afterwards we looked in on a couple parties. I watched some more swordfighting demos by Aegis Academy, then joined Mia at the music circle. This was really quite dead, although we had another nice talk with Frank Hayes when he stopped by briefly. We got to bed about 1 AM. I think James came back to the room about 2:30.

Slept past 9 this morning. Not a lot of convention for me and James, since Mia took us to the airport at 11. This worked out OK, although there was about 1/2 hour of hideous traffic on I-94.

James and I returned home precisely according to plan, again changing planes at O’Hare. James handled the weekend’s air travel very well. I am quite pleased with him.

His laptop computer did not do so well. It was very slow. Perhaps a virus had finally gotten into to it. Or perhaps, as a Windows machine, it was uncomfortable at a Linux event :-)> My little Nokia 770, which runs Debian Linux, did just fine….

This was one of the best cons I have been to in a long time. I need to reflect on why that was. It was quite different from what we have here in Minnesota–what about these differences appealed to me?

Mia is driving home, and is spending the night with family friends in Chicagoland.

Western Martial Arts

Notes from presentation at Penguicon on Saturday:

4-5:30PM Birch Fencing Demo Bob Scheltema, Brandon Scheltema Witness some non-choreographed, steel sword combat and you might just learn what Inigo Montoya and the Man in Black were talking about in The Princess Bride. The fencing demonstration (fencing, the art of defense, or from the German Fechten, to fight) will include discussions about the growing Western Marital Arts combat movement. Learn the fighting styles of the Italian Masters of Defense (Bonetti, Capo Ferro, Agrippa), along with the combat philosophies of the Spanish (Thibault), German and English schools. Western Marital Arts combat includes rapier, longsword, basket hilt and good old wrestling and kicking.

English style, following Silver’s book ..basket hilt broadswords…Strong on cuts…Silver’s “true guard” seems very much like the hanging guard in Scottish books.

German longswords..Two handed grip–off hand on pommel for leverage. If you get close, use wrestling…takedowns.

Italian rapier… thrusting

Attack your opponent’s sword hand–it will really be sufficient if you can put it out of action.

The Italian and Spanish schools were more gentlemanly. Less grappling than the English and Germans. German texts are more battle oriented, as opposed to street fighting or dueling.

Wearing period clothes, shoes, and weapons makes for a better understanding of why things were done the way they were. Smooth shoes explain tiptoe stance in one period book–that actually gives a better grip on the floor.

There were also several presentations from the Aegis Sword Academy. These had more emphasis on practical fighting than on reproduction of a specific period style, and in fact, everybody from there wore modern clothes. One presentation was:

8:30-9:30PM Birch Sword Demo: “Florentino: Case of Blades” Aegis Sword Academy The grace of fantasy’s double swords began as short sword and long knife – the weapons of a back alley fight in sixteenth century Florence.

The Brain is a Computer–Maybe not

Notes from a panel at Penguicon Satrurday afternoon

2:30 to 4 PM Maple A Brain-As-Computer Metaphor Karl Schroeder, Ron Hale-Evans, Dr. Jonathan “Sullydog” Sullivan Cutting-edge SF author Karl Schroeder joins Ron Hale-Evans, author of Mind Performance Hacks, and Dr. Jonathon Sullivan MD PhD in neurology, to consider “The brain is a computer, the mind is software.” That’s been the ruling metaphor of cognitive science, neurology and AI studies for decades. The software of thought is supposed to operate much like that of a computer, going from discrete state to discrete state. However a new study from Cornell shows that our thoughts change continuously; the brain works “in shades of grey”. And there are good reasons to think that the mind is not an artifact of the brain alone, but is extended into the environment as well

Is consciousness necessary for intelligence?

Consider “Blind sight”–seeing something without knowing that one has seen it

If you think of the brain as a fixed array of neurons, each of which is either on or off, then indeed you are talking about a computer, but…

Neuroplasticity: The brain can change.

The brain is not just array of neurons-other tissues are clearly doing important things .

We don’t have one physical model to describe nature at the most fundamental level: We need both quantum mechanics and relativity. So it is not surprising that we need more than one model to describe the brain.

Direct interaction with environment. A baseball player does not catch a fly ball by solving the differential equations that govern the ball’s. Also consider how cockroaches scatter when you catch them. This is automatic–not conscious.

“Consciousness cannot be aware of its own absence”

Roger Penrose: Consciousness as quantum gravity effect.

The cognitive system is not just the brain: It is the brain plus its environment.

Consciousness may have a very low bandwidth…may not use much of brain’s power. Large amounts of what we do is unconscious. Consciousness just along for the it important? With experience you do more decisions automatically. Consciousness is for novel situations. Mastery of something is to make it unconscious.

“It’s all a blur”…consiousness attenuated.

You do something automatically, an your brain “back dates” the decision to do it. This has moral and theological implications “An array of neurons did this not me. But …. These experiments have been challenged.

“It’s all a blur”…consiousness attenuated.

Partial knowledge is often enough…lot of people know how to use computers, but few of them really know how they work.

Ask a pure mathematician “what is a number”–not an easy question.


On the Origin of Objects

Smolin on quantum gravity.

The User Illusion

Synaptic Self

Penguicon – Saturday afternoon

Frank Hayes is here. Mia found him in the Con Suite and we had a wonderful talk, catching up on the last 10 years. We just went to his concert. Hearing him sing (and singing along with him) is still great fun. One of his songs (an old song) was about S-100 bus computers. Looking around the room it was obvious that much of the audience had been born long after S-100 computers became obsolete.