31 January 2007

I'm irrascible and cranky

Well, not really. I'm actually in a pretty good mood today, because I locked some heavy things up in a Quadcon after constructing some shelves for them. This makes me happy, because I was afraid the shelves would fall apart when I started loading them up with heavy things made by General Motors (and that should tell you how old they are).

Tomorrow, M-249s and the rifle racks go in. After that, I need to put some rifles in a footlocker to go with one of the main body flights. Then it's about two days worth of 'getting miscellaneous crap out of the arms room'. The CO's guidance is to have the Arms Room ready for turn-over on the 6th. I think I can have it clear by the 4th if I work at it. Then I move my laptop to the TOC and generate a ton and a half of paperwork for all this nonsense.

Screw PTSD, I'm going to file at the VA for combat-related Carpel Tunnel Syndrome.

But what I meant by the title of the post is that sometimes I feel like Scrooge at the We Love the Troops fest.

I find yellow ribbons silly, unless you no-kidding have a blood relative or someone specific you want to come home. A generic ribbon for "all the troops" seems silly. And for Bob's Sake, take it down when the Soldier comes home, or when it becomes so bedraggled that it is embarassing. Replace it if you like in the latter case, but have some sense.

I find a lot of the pro-troop rhetoric over the top. "Hero" is a label I don't like.

We have Hero Flights here.

They take remains of KIAs out of country. That's about the only usage I'm 100% comfortable with.

A total stranger gushing at me about how much they 'appreciate all you do for our country' makes me uncomfortable. A simply stated 'thank you' is enough and more than enough, especially if prefaced by a question which makes me think you actually care about me as an individual. Doesn't have to be much, even a "have you been to Iraq?" indicates to me that I'm being thanked as a person for what I have done personally, rather than as a symbol.

I guess that's the root of my discomfort. I like being a person, with individuality. A lot of the rhetoric and symbolic gestures, pro- and con-, doesn't deal with real people. It deals with abstractions. I am not an abstraction. I dislike being treated as a representative of the platonic ideal of Soldier, and treated in accordance with that person's view thereof.

29 January 2007

Money and Soldiering

I occasionally run across folks who wish to express their appreciation for Soldiers by voicing the sentiment that they aren't paid enough.

For the month of January, I cost the American taxpayer over $5500, plus food, a Typhoid vaccination (my arm still hurts), medical care for my wife's sinus infection and assorted incidental expenses. And the only taxes I paid were FICA.

What price can you put on this? On one hand, I'm doing a relatively simple job which millions of folks have done throughout history. I came into it with no experience, no training, and a high school education. I can't say I'm doing poorly financially.

On the other hand, during my career I have been shot at, blown up, mortared, rocketed, worked for 96 hours straight, and not seen my wife for more than two weeks at a time for two years. I go to crappy little countries and let crappy little people try to kill me. You can't hang a price tag on that!

There is no amount of renumeration which would recompense the blood, sweat, and tears of Soldiering. You couldn't pay me to do this. I Soldier because I am a Soldier.

Most Soldiers who get into financial trouble aren't underpaid, they are short common sense. There is no reason for a 18 year old private to marry his high school sweetheart, pop out 3 or 4 kids, spend a hundred bucks a weekend drinking with the boys downtown, and drive a car with $4,000 rims. The pay of a private is more money than most of these kids have ever seen in their lives, and it goes straight to their head. They spend it stupidly. Paying them more would result in their wives wearing more and tackier fake jewelry, bigger rims, absolutely incredible sound systems, and even more debt. Give Private Snuffy $100K a year and he'd be broke in a year, and deep in debt within two. But he'd have a huge flatscreen TV!

I don't Soldier for the money. Money is nice, but if you say, "Soldiers do great things for our country and therefore we should pay them more," then I ask how much more. A 5% payraise is an insult, a 10% is more than the nation would realistically pay. Buy me some nice toys to shoot Mr. Hajj with and we'll call it even. Because in the end, you love this stuff, or you don't. No one ever left the Army for money who wasn't going to leave it anyway. And no one stayed in the Army for money either.

Don't endanger my profession by changing that, because Soldiers motivated by pay raises are dangerous to the Republic.

28 January 2007

Liberalism and Islam, again

I've seen this linked to in three different places, most notably OWD and Ponsdorf's personal site (Another Voice, see blogroll)


The venerable great-granddaddy of liberalism, Jean Jacques Rousseau provides the meat of this discourse on why the Left loves Islam, when Islam hates so much of what liberalism truly is all about. You all remember that--women's rights, gay rights, equal rights for people of the wrong skin color (and if you think Islam is free of that, try being a Circassian or Armenian or Kurd or just the wrong tribe in most of the Middle East). All that stuff that liberals are supposed to hate, Islam espouses. Yet the Left loves Islam.

"Several peoples, however, even in Europe and its neighborhood, have desired without success to preserve or restore the old system: but the spirit of Christianity has everywhere prevailed. The sacred cult has always remained or again become independent of the Sovereign, and there has been no necessary link between it and the body of the State. Mahomet held very sane views, and linked his political system well together; and, as long as the form of his government continued under the caliphs who succeeded him, that government was indeed one, and so far good."

The application today is:

"A racist, sexist, homophobic, power-mad society such as ours deserves to be taught a lesson! Even if the teacher is racist, sexist, homophobic, and power-mad, they aren't Western, Christian, or White! They aren't Dick Cheney! Power to the people!"

"The Liberal ultimately believes that the culture we have built, the triumph of Judeo-Christian values, is diseased and must be erased. If Islam can do their work for them, so be it. Islam, like the State under Marx, will ultimately wither away, and the paradise which predated Christ and Abraham can be restored. At least they like to think so."

"Much like Milton's fallen angels, they believe they have been dispossessed of their rightful station by a tyrannical spiritual entity, and they are determined to repossess their native seat-the fallen pastoral paradise promised them by Rousseau and Nietzsche-via the triumph of their Collective Will. This is their prime mover, their principle motivation. It is why they were so enraged at the loss of their political power, and why they hate the "usurper" George W. Bush; they were driven out before they could attain paradise. This concept-lifted from Christian doctrine-that History has an ultimate end in a Humanistic Eden cannot be overstressed; the Left is consumed with this. They feel that, by losing their political power, they have been cast into the Lake of Fire."

Absolutely true. Bolshevism was once described as a basically Christian heresy. The heresy being, of course, that one could coerce human beings into acting in a moral, unselfish manner. The corollary was that any means was acceptable to that end, which prevented the Bolsheviks from being able to discern between well-intentioned reformers and power-mad dogs like Stalin. Once you discard traditional morality, then the only real, effective check on the depravity of man is gone and you end up with the lowest common denominator.

The fundamental flaw, as I see it, is pride. Unable or unwilling to admit that they are not perfected already in their words, thoughts, and deeds, certain people must attack the Chruch as that which proclaims two inescapable truths, that all men are fundamentally flawed creatures, and that there is only one way of altering that situation. Incapable of facing that reality, they set themselves up as the new arbiters of what is right and wrong. But as the Evil One cannot create, but only distort and pervert what is already created, instead of a viable alternative, we end up with the contradictory self-loathing masochism (for what else does the decrying of Western Civilization itself mean?) and the self-centered Will to Power as the substitute ideology.

We see this evidenced in the shrill accusations the left hurls--if you say that this or that behavior is immoral, they will respond, 'but Mark Foley send smutty emails' or 'but George Bush is a liar' or 'but ad homenium is fun and easy and a substitute for actual thinking'.

Very interesting, and self-revealing.

Now, there is an alternate strain of Liberalism, one rooted in (Protestant) reformers driven by Christian compassion to attempt to better the lot of those less fortunate. I can argue methods with those people, but not ends. My issue is with the breed of Liberalism which is rooted in Marxian principles and has as its end the eradication of what we now call Western Civilization since the term Christendom has become passe.

26 January 2007

Not much to write

I've been too busy to do much else. Your last 30 days are the worst, and worse for armorers than most folks. I'm trying to pack the containers (and I've got three to myself, 1 Cadillac and 2 Quadcons) but folks are still using the stuff I'm trying to load into them. Oh, well.

I'm just expecting pain and suffering in Febuary.

I have no idea what's in the news, beyond a brief notice that the Democrats are doing their best to sabotage the war, near as I can tell.

I read somewhere a suggestion that the only way for the Democrats to get onboard for the War on Terror would be for them to win the whole enchilada in 2008, House and Senate and White House, and then another 9/11-magnitude event to occur. Personally, I think they would rationalize it away, ignore it, or simply curl into the fetal position. Probably smoke a lot of weed and write policy papers while high, denouncing 'negative vibes.' There aren't a dozen politicians at the national level in the Democratic Party with enough of a grip on the way the world really works to deal with a no-kidding war with people who actually hate them.

22 January 2007

Duelling Trivialities



So, there's some Drama on one of the blogs I follow. I think, and this is not based on behind-the-scenes conversations with any of the participants, notwithstanding the fact that one of them is a Loyal Reader and frequent commentor here, that the original post was trying to say that 20 KIAs is serious next to the trivial annoyances and petty crap we all get worked up about during our daily life.

I think the second post, the fellow involved thought he was calling 20 KIAs trivial and hyperreacted.

Let me throw in a novel theory.

It is trivial. It's not trivial to the loved ones of the 20 men involved. It feels like the end of thw world. But to America, to us as a society, it not only is trivial, but if it were not trivial, we would be 99.9% of the way to surrender.

Soldiers are Soldiers for one purpose, to fight and win wars. To some, the phrase 'Fighting wars' may evoke the image of strewing rose petals and validating everyone's cultural identity while handing out ethnically appropriate humanitarian aid packages full of halal food. To those of us in touch with reality, it evokes the killing of men and the destruction of the works of man. We can, and do, and will do practically anything else we are called upon, but the fighting of wars is our primary responsibility.

As such, a society which maintains a military and expects to use that military for any purpose must acknowledge the fact that the enemy, those whose young men you send your Soldiers out to kill, will be trying to do the same thing to you.

And sometimes, they will succeed. Using military force is always done with the expectation that it will cost huge amounts of money and varying amounts of blood. At least, here in Reality Land. The time to determine whether or not you are comfortable with that fact is before the war begins, not afterwards. And if you are not comfortable with that fact, then you have only one course of action open to you as a society. That course is supine surrender upon the initiation of any conflict, however trivial the opposition.

Further, even maintaining a military requires a certain hardness of heart on the issue of casualties. Soldiering is an inherently dangerous proposition, and the better you are it, the more dangerous it is. The only way to get good is hard training, and hard training has risks.

Soldiers die in roll-over accidents at a non-trivial rate annually during field training. We have aviation accidents with higher death tolls than 13 almost every year, without a mention on the evening news. But of course, if you loose a helicopter in Iraq, that's a stick to beat George Bush with so of course it gets reported. Sailors fall off ships, Fighter jets smack into ski lifts, and so on and so forth. No one notices.

I'm comfortable with paradox. So let me propose a paradoxical solution. Honor each of these men, respect their sacrifice, and do so in whatever way your tradition leads you.

Then take a deep breath, put your game face on, and recognize that the only honorable and successful way open to us is to show the Enemy that we can afford these losses. For a century, America's enemies have believed that our concern for individual casualties is our weakness, and that they have only to bleed us until our nerve breaks. It worked in 1968, when the United States lost its collective nerve even in the face of overwhelmingly successful operations which essentially destroyed the NLF (aka Viet Cong), which NEVER conducted an operation after Tet.[1] It did not work in 1918, 1944, or 1950. There is nothing fundamentally wrong or weak about American character. Indeed, our concern for casualties makes us better at warfare, in that we use materiel and superior tactics to kill the enemy more efficiently at lower cost.

War is an act of violence to compel the enemy to do our will.[2] Nothing else is relevant. You can kill until you are knee-deep in blood, and until you start killing percentages of your enemy's adult male population in the double digits, it means nothing. You have to compel the enemy to do your will, or you are simply engaging in slaughter. If he compells you to do his will, you have lost.

The will of the enemy[3] is that the United States withdraw from Iraq before creating a security structure which will protect the Iraqi government. He will continue to invest resources in this if and only if he believes there is a prospect of success. No enemy or combination of enemies can inflict casualties on the United States military sufficient to eliminate our physical capability to go where we wish to go and do what we wish to do in Iraq. They simply can't stand up to us and die like flies if they do.

The method they have chosen is, instead, a steady series of attacks intended to erode the willingness of the American People to pay the price necessary to continue to do our will rather than theirs.

Do we play their game? Do we do their will? If we do their will in this matter, why not do their will in the greater matters?

[1]The NLF was so badly damaged that the only way they operated was as an adjunct and auxillary to PAVN forces.
[2]Majorgeneral Freiherr Karl von Clausewitz, freely translated/paraphrased.
[2]Simplification, and I know it. There are many organizations operating in Iraq, as well as several regional players, and all of them have competing agendas. I have reduced them to their lowest common denominator in this statement.

20 January 2007

Today's stupid question

Adjusted for inflation, how much did the Marshall Plan cost for just Germany?

There were roughly 80 million Germans, and about a third that many Iraqi, more or less.

There also wasn't an insurgency running in Germany, and while we did bomb the cities until the rubble bounced, the infrastructure in Iraq isn't badly damaged, it's more or less nonexistent.

Democracy requires a degree of prosperity, and more importantly, the perception of achieving better things. If you do not believe that there are opportunities to better yourself, then you sit on your fat duff and vote for whatever politician promises the most bread and the best circuses. That is disaster. If you do believe in those opportunities, you vote for the politician that promises to safeguard those opportunities and then you diligently work for them.

You don't build an infrastructure overnight or on shoestring budgets. Not going to happen.

I'm wondering how many people who are ready to cut our losses and go home have a plan to deal with the fallout. What fallout?

How many pro-US goverments fell from 1975 to 1980?

Hint: The answer isn't 1.

What are we going to do when rabidly anti-American governments take power in bloody coups through the Middle East and start manipulating oil prices in ways that make the post-1973 Oil Embargo look like free trade?

19 January 2007

Hooray for Dems

OK, let me see if I get this straight.

After screaming at W for YEARS, since 2003, that he needs to have sent more troops to Iraq from the beginning, Congressional Democrats are now threatening to block the funds to send more troops to Iraq. . .

If I ever needed more proof that the Democrats want us to fail in Iraq purely for political gain, this would be it.

Whether you agree with the surge or not, the fact that Democratic Congresscritters have, in significant numbers, changed position from "send more troops" to "don't send more troops" and that the only thing that happened to alter their position was the President suddenly agreed with them. . .

Disgusting animals.


Annual Gauging went off without a major hitch yesterday. I looked at 160 or so weapons, with two guys from 501st FSB Small Arms shop. We tracked down everyone, including the major who got out of the meeting as we were finishing it up, the guy who works at the Post Office, and so on and so forth.

Every single weapon got gauged. I almost keeled over at the end of the day. The run up for the past couple days has been stupidly stressful, helped only by the Fraternal Order of Armorers hooking me up. I brought up a couple of weapons by horsetrading with C/9th Engineer's armorer. Of course, I ended up giving him a couple footlockers of parts we aren't redeploying with. I'm pretty much wiping out the bench stock because I just don't need it.

I've got a tentative flight date, which will put me in Kuwait for Jen's feast day, but Germany by my birthday. That is of course, written in smoke.

I'm looking forward to this whole redeployment thang on one hand, and totally stressed about the work needed to get there from here.

15 January 2007

Pet Peeve

Anyone who for any cause uses a cute, but difficult to read, font should be tortured to death and left to feed the ravens.

Especially if it happens to be SMALL, cute, and difficult to read.

Other than that, I like Glutter of Ravens, which is a wargame ruleset intended for British civil wars AD 400-700. You can also run Saxon, Irish, or Pictish armies if you want to.

I've been busy, but with mostly pretty mundane stuff lately.

A Green Beans Coffee has opened up here. They have what they call a MOAC, or Mother of All Coffees, which is something like 3 cups of coffee and three shots of expresso. I think. It rocks.

12 January 2007

Grey Day

Raining pretty much all day. No playing with power tools.

Jen's schedule changed and I didn't get a chance to talk to her.

I had a mission and was up to 0100 last night. Still woke up and went to work 'on time' this AM.

Sick as a dog past couple days--mostly just nausea and whatnot, real lowgrade stuff.

Today has been a pretty crap day overall.

Redeemed at the tail end of it by a good conversation with a buddy of mine. He's having, erm, relational issues and. . . well, it's hard to explain. Good kid, but young. I see some of myself in him, in a way.

And I find that no matter how bleak my mood is, I'm cheered by talking about Jen, or reading her LJ, or whatever other way I can connect with her in some way.

I need to go home.

10 January 2007

Today's Random Assortment of Stuff

Who's ever heard of a bent forward assist? It's wider than it is long. How do you bend it?

Oh, well, five minutes at the Small Arms shop and it's replaced.

The Alcock I'm getting into (Arthur's Britain) is apparently a bit dated (1971) and no longer reflects the "latest" thinking on post-Roman Britain.


The sources are so scanty that pretty much anything you want can fit into them. I don't buy the modern trend of emphasising that Britons, other Celts, and Germans were more or less interchangable and identical in culture. Especially since the justification seem a little thin.

I want to believe in Arthur.

So I do.

The burning urge to cast aspersions on everything you can't absolutely prove is, I think, taken a bit far by some people. I mean, I understand saying, "there is no evidence which supports this." But if there is no evidence which argues against it, then there is no harm in saying, "we just don't know, can't prove anything, believe whatever makes you happy." I do not see the need to argue that if there isn't evidence for something that it simply could not have happened. Identify it as unproven and legendary and move on.

Today's nifty Website Quote, from

Gurnion Castle is another battle site that remains anonymous, though many think it was a Roman fort, perhaps one near Stow in Selkirkshire, or Garionenum in Norfolk.

The interesting part of Nennius's description is in the "image of the Holy Virgin" passage. Some claim that the region was not completely Christianized during Arthur's time and that he would not have worn such an image. This is probably not anachronistic, though, since there was a church at Glastonbury that had been dedicated to Mary for some time.

Another curiosity is that Arthur carries the image on his shoulder instead of on the more likely place, his shield. This is probably due to a simple transcription error. Scuid in old Welsh means shoulder, while scuit in Latin means shield. The Welsh term was probably given to Nennius and he wrote it as shoulder when it should have been shield. This note is also similar to the one in the Annals of Wales regarding the Battle of Badon.

So, another oddball Arthurian question cleared up to my entire satisfaction. Icon on the shield strange, but not unknown. In the East, we probably wouldn't do such a thing due to an different type of reverence for the Holy Icons. But we do know of icons incorporated into headgear, and even helmets, so a shield isn't such a large leap.


Today's non-website quote comes from a conversation with a Marine. Said Marine was kvetching about the mud.

I say, "But isn't mud the natural environment of the Marine? Where water meets the land and they mix and all that?"

Marine: "You can't be serious."

09 January 2007

Point of Clarification

If you wish me to engage in free-lance carpentry, I will do so as long as:

1) You feed me.

2) You don't mind having something put together that looks like it was assembled by a drunk. I will guarantee its stability, eventually, but not the appearance.

3) You don't mind that I can't work on a piece of carpentry for more than 2 or 3 hours at a time before losing interest. Then I have to take a break.

I got my Merry Christmas for Me stuff today. Ospreys! And one of the Alcock books I've been waiting for.

08 January 2007

Back to McCormick

OK, after a refreshing theological break, I'm back to Carolingian coin hoards. My Beloved sent me a pair of book by Clendenin (sp?) who is an Evangelical with an interest in Orthodoxy. One of them was a collection of some really great essays by Orthodox theologians, the other is sort of his take on them all. It's interesting and perhaps a little odd, but definitely fun reading.

So I'm learning about trade routes as illustrated by coin hoards. Wow. . . I didn't know the Carolingians had a thing about foreign currency. Stupid Franks. :)

Apparently, they melted down foreign coins that showed up. Actually, foreign silver. Foreign gold was not such a problem, but they didn't want competition with their own silver pennies? I don't understand the rationale behind it.

But outside of Frankland, coin hoards do illustrate some nifty patterns of commerce, along with relics. Coins and relics are the only two things that the Europeans imported that can be found today in quantity with reliable dates and places of origin. There's also a good quantity of textile finds, but placing the point of origin of silk is a lot harder than with coins, and it doesn't change as much from year to year as the names (and often dates) on coins. Seems that the Med was not as quiet after the "Fall of the Roman Empire" as was previously thought.

Of course, what were the Europeans exporting to pay for all this? That's a really good question. The only thing we can prove is slaves. Lots of slaves, in the thousands. Some were kidnapped from Italy or Southern France (literally--the majority of the stories of individual slaves with ages assigned show that males 12-20 were the prime demographic) in retail lots, but most of them were prisoners of war, the products of the Carolingian expansion into the East. Lots of them were carried on Venetian hulls, which explains why the mission of Cyril and Methodius to convert these same Slavs was so vehemently opposed by the Venetians.

Have I mentioned lately how much I loathe Venetians? I mean, really. Despicable people.

Since I haven't mentioned it yet: Yes, I know Ethiopia's government isn't the ideal ally. But they are fighting the war on terror with some 'nads, which is more than I can say for some of our "allies". Go Ethiopia!

Also, WTF is going on with birds dropping dead in Austin? IMHO, this is Bad.

gmail doesn't want to behave. I am saddened by this.

I can't believe the top news story is that New York smells funny.

My time is mostly taken up with carpentry. I just built a rifle rack today. Wheee. . .

05 January 2007

Is joke?

What a Roman horsebreeder wanted. . .

"Small head, black eyes, nostrils open, wars short and picked up; neck flexible and broad without being long; mane thick and falling on the right side, broad and muscular chest, big straight shoulders, muscles sticking out all over the body, sides sloping in, double black, small belly, stones small and alike, flanks broad and drawn in, tail long and not bristly, for this is ugly; legs straight; knee round and small, and not turned in, buttocks and thighs full and muscular; hoofs black high and hollow, topping off with moderate sized coronets. He should in general be so formed as to be large, high, well set up, of an active look, and round-barreled in the proportion proper to his length."

(Pelagonius, Ars Vet., quotes in Morgan 1962, page 115)

I also find, on an SCA website:

"Often, it is assumed that earlier period warhorses were smaller, around 11 or 12 hands and that later period horses were larger, around 18 hands. Fifth century Sarmatian burial sites yield horse skeletons of up to 15 hands in height (Equis, pg 22). Bones of horses found in a Roman fort in Scotland (Equis, pg 25) were from horses from 11 to nearly 15 hands. "

Where 'Equis' is a reference to: Hyland, Ann, Equis: the Horse in the Roman World, Yale University Press, 1990

I'm in Iraq with an unreliable internet connection. You'd think a friggin' PhD student who obviously had a lot of time and resources on his hands could have figured this out. I know the SCA is hardly a source you could cite in an academic paper, but Ms. Hyland's book most certaintly is.

Especially since Ms. Hyland's methods apparently include basic common sense principles like, "Hey, let's take this Roman horseshoe, copy it, and stick it on some modern horses to see what size of horse it fits!"

Then again, I find that occasionally 'Serious Historians' have great beef with this sort of thing, preferring to publish papers on possible alternative translations for an obscure word in a badly copied manuscript in a dead tongue which might bear on the topic.

04 January 2007

Lords of Battle

Lords of Battle: Image and Reality of the Comitatus in Dark Age Britain, by Stephen S. Evans.

It's not a bad book, and raises some interesting points regarding similarities of military culture between British and Germanic kingdoms. Over all, it's not a bad introduction, if highly limited by the fact that the only good sources we have for the subject are heroic poems.

Heroic poems suck as military history. Seriously. Very difficult to interpret--rather like a historian trying to figure out the history of WWII based on Captain America comic books.

One conclusion Mr. Evans (err, Dr. Evans, this is a magnification of his PhD thesis) reached that I disagree vehemently with is his conclusion that the British used horses only as a means of operational mobility, invariably dismounting to fight. That this was true of the Germanic tribes I do not doubt, based on the lack of horse furniture in the grave goods, lack of description of mounted combat, etc.

But for the British, there is only offered a statement by RHC Davis that the native horse breeds of Britain averaged 8-10 hands. Again, I don't doubt this. The fact remains that the Notitia Dignitatum lists no less than five named cavalry cohorts in Britain at the end of the 4th century. Each of these would have had a book strength in the neighborhood of 500 troopers, plus a remount pool. I doubt that, given the difficulty in moving horses by ship, these horses were bred in Gaul or further afield. It is far more reasonable to assume that the Romans had stud farms with warhorse breeds to provide for their own troops. These horses would have be highly prized and not likely to have become extinct in the century after the Romans left. I have not read the Gododdin poem but I have it on order, and will judge for myself the statements made in this poem in regards to mounted warfare.

I am unconvinced of the statements by Dr. Evans definitely excluding those not full-time members of the 'comitatus' or professional warband from the practice of warfare. I am also unconvinced of the conclusion that the warband's ranks were refreshed only from the sons of the warriors, wandering mercenaries drawn by the chief's reputation, and fostered boys. It seems to me, given the apparently high casualty rates of battles and given the apparent lack of concern for any hereditary component to the warband's makeup (outside of the chief's immediate family) that any number of 'hangers-on' hoping to win a place in the chief's hall could have attached themselves to a warband. After all, not every Joe Snuffy that's going to show up with a spear and shield (huge economic investments? I think not) is going to have enough of a reputation to justify being taken on by the chief as a full-time professional fighter.

Just because the practice is not attested to in the poetry doesn't mean that it _didn't_ happen. I'm just leery enough about the reliability of epic poetry as a source of technical military details (especially when interpreted by some sillyvilian) that I am far less comfortable making definitive statements than Dr. Evans seems to be.

Then again, I doubt they hand out PhDs for saying, "There really isn't enough data to honestly tell much about subject X, Y, or Z. So let me inflate the chapters dealing with A, B, and C, about which the poets do go on and on about."

01 January 2007

The more things change. . .

So there's this Prince Vladimir of Kiev, see?

And he send delegations around to check out the religions of his neighbors because no one will take him seriously if he stays a pagan.

The crew that goes to check on Islam decides to visit the conveniently located Volga Bulgars, and according to the Russian Primary Chronicle, their report was summarized as,

"When we journeyed among the Bulgarians, we beheld how they worship in their temple, called a mosque, while they stand ungirt. The Bulgarian bows, sits down, looks hither and thither like one possessed, and there is no happiness among them, but instead only sorrow and a dreadful stench. Their religion is not good."

I can't speak to NO happiness, but the dreadful stench persists. . .

I'm so sick of this country.