Sunday, May 31, 2009


I'd like to call your attention to my second Cafepress store, Meateatersaurus, devoted to designs not related to the Middle Ages or medieval recreation, such as the Saturday Night in the Mesozoic t-shirt.

That allowed me to free up more product slots for medieval related designs at Commonplace Goods, allowing a greater variety of products at that site.

Avian Sex.... one of the themes of ribald medieval carnival badges, as well as Chaucer's Parlement of Foules. But also of Sex with Ducks, a sweet video from Riki Lindhome and Kate Micucci, aka Garfunkle and Oates.

Which shows that the themes of medieval art still have relevance in today's world.


Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day Reading: Ernie Pyle

This Memorial Day I'd like to remember a particular man, the great journalist Ernie Pyle, killed towards the end of WWII. His work is his best memorial, and a splendid record of the ordinary fighting men he covered.

If you haven't read his work, this is a good place to start.

Or, on this day of remembrance, The Death of Captain Waskow

AT THE FRONT LINES IN ITALY, January 10, 1944 - In this war I have known a lot of officers who were loved and respected by the soldiers under them. But never have I crossed the trail of any man as beloved as Capt. Henry T. Waskow of Belton, Texas.

The last three words are typical Pyle. Whenever he listed a man's name he always identified his home town. He knew how much it mattered.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Take That, Whale Poachers

Star Wars and Star Trek over San Francisco in this video.

An earlier video of Imperial Fleet Week in SF from the same artist.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Middle-Aged Middle Ages

Steve Muhlberger has posted an appreciation of Robin and Marian.

I probably should not say that this is a movie about middle-aged people for middle-aged people, but it is, and I mean it as a compliment. I certainly can't think of a better historical movie of this sort.

I'd say that it's matched by Goldman's other film on a similar theme, The Lion in Winter, in which a creaky Henry II deals with aging, his estranged wife, bickering adult children and other midlife issues.

One of the minor joys of that movie is William Marshal as a secondary character. He's the one who knows that you should always be waiting outside in the corridor with a drawn sword any time you send the guards into a room to fetch Richard.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Seasteading: the New Laputa

Patri Friedman and the Seasteading Institute is pushing the idea of “of autonomous, mobile communities on seaborne platforms (“seasteads”) operating in international waters.”

I can see some problems with the idea. The first is that the group, as far as I can tell from its site, is not very aware that they are reinventing the flotel (floating hotel) or accommodation platform. Building and selling or renting these is already a multimillion dollar industry. Workers on offshore oil rigs need a place to sleep and spend their off-duty time, and flying them home every night is not cost effective.

The good news is that there is already an established industry offering mobile platforms of 600 berths or more, and fiercely devoted to making them available at the lowest possible price. The bad news is that the lowest possible price isn’t very low. Leased accommodation platforms seem to run about $6-15 thousand a month per berth, not counting insurance, fuel, resupply and catering expenses, for contracts ranging from 6-24 months in length.

A platform devoted purely to accommodation would probably cost a bit less, since the accommodation platforms serving the oil industry often devote space and tonnage to cranes, workshops and deck space for other support functions. I’d be surprised if you could cut the cost per berth by more than 50%, however.

Given that you might be able to buy a single berth on a cruise ship for $3-6 thousand a month, this seems high at first glance. However, cruise ships probably benefit from economies of scale: 600 berths is large for an oil industry flotel, but very small for a cruise ship. Cruise ships can sail around the worst storms, but a nearly immobile platform must be able to survive storms a more mobile ship can evade.