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December 4, 2008

Plays Well With Lightning
Posted by Teresa at 10:59 AM * 168 comments

Today is the Feast of Saint Barbara: go blow something up. Alternately, you can avoid getting blown up, which is just as appropriate.

Barbara is the most volatile of the Three Explosive Virgin Martyrs,* who form the core lineup of the Fourteen Holy Helpers.* She’s most often shown as a beautiful young woman holding a tower that has three windows. The other two EVMs are Saint Catherine of Alexandria, as in Catherine-wheel fireworks, and Saint Margaret of Antioch, who defeated a dragon that had swallowed her by blowing it up from the inside,* which is why Margaret is the patron saint of women in labor. They hang out being ahistorical and irrepressible together.

Saint Barbara’s popularity got a boost when gunpowder technology reached Europe. Here we see her smiling serenely while standing atop the thrashed remains of the previous climax weapons system, the knight in armor. To this day, the name for the powder magazine in Spanish or Italian ships is santabarbara.

She continues to be popular. Here’s her MySpace page. Here’s the episode from her Life where lightning hits the tower, which became trump #16 in the standard Tarot deck. Here she is in one of her more prominent current gigs (see also).

She’s the patron saint of sailors,* gunners, artillery, sappers, explosive ordnance disposal, military engineers,* mathematicians, fortification builders, ammunition workers, saltpetre workers, smelters, brass workers, foundrymen, armorers,* bomb technicians, explosives manufacturers, fireworks makers, miners, mining engineers, geologists, railway workers, architects, construction workers, masons, stonemasons, stonecutters, tilers, hatters, milliners, brewers, prisoners,* martyrs, gravediggers, fire prevention, warehouses, ammunition magazines, storms, lightning, landmines, incoming shells, explosions, and sudden death, and of anyone who works at risk of a sudden and violent end. Also, if things do go kablooey and you’re mortally burnt and/or blown up, invoking Saint Barbara is your best bet for staying alive long enough for last rites.

She would undoubtedly be the patron saint of rocket scientists, vulcanologists, chemistry students, explosive building demolition, and people who deep-fry turkeys, if the Vatican didn’t keep trying to scrub her out of the calendar for being so embarrassingly ahistorical.

(Digression: I like my godfather’s take on dubious saints. He says that a saint whose legend is ahistorical, contradictory, and folkloric is merely a saint for whom we do not have a reliable saint’s life; and there are lots of those. It’s also well known that there are many saints who die unknown to us.

He says that if you’re ever involved in doings that are of interest to agencies whose names are three-letter acronyms, and they recruit you as a contact, what they’ll do is give you a number to call and a name to ask for. If later something happens, and you call that number and ask for that name so you can tell them about it, they’ll put you on hold for a bit, then put you through. The person you’ll wind up talking to doesn’t actually bear the name you were given. What that name did was tell them which file to pull and look through before talking to you.

By analogy, he says, who knows who’s taking the Barbara duty when you pray? It might even be someone named Barbara.) (End digression.)

The other military saints don’t get nearly the attention she does. It’s remarkable how often she turns up on websites about artillery units [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10], explosive ordnance disposal (EOD), armourers, miners and mining engineers [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6], railway workers, military engineers [1, 2, 3], and architects. It’s one of the things I love about the cult of Saint Barbara: no group, organization, or profession that works with things that explode and/or collapse ever parts ways with her. She may be out of the calendar, and they may be officially secular, nondenominational, or even atheist, but she’s still their patron saint, and they would not be so imprudent as to let her go.

Comments on Plays Well With Lightning:
#1 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 11:22 AM:

Your '*' linkies are blown away.
(Sorry. Couldn't resist that one.)

It's perhaps appropriate that Santa Barbara the city is in a fireprone area.

#2 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 11:29 AM:

Your first paragraph has two 'avoid's in a row, and the second one has an incomplete link.

(Where's the earth-shattering KABOOM?)

#3 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 11:33 AM:

The French navy traditionally called its powder magazines "sainte-barbe" as well.

Before Euopeans cast cannon, they cast church bells, and since so much of that technology carried over to cannon manufacture, the foundry workers took Barabra with them--the presence of Stuff What Goes BOOM! in their new field just reinforced the wisdom of their choice, I suspect.

Of course no one outside the Vatican has dropped her--they know quite well what they're up against!

#4 ::: Elilzabeth Coleman ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 11:37 AM:

So when you need a saint to conflate with your manliest of gods/orishas, who do you turn to? Sweet, virginal Santa Barbara! Because she blows stuff up. And so we get fun, gender-bending gods/orishas like Chango of the Santeria system. (Described here by a rather frantic individual.)

#5 ::: C.E. Petit ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 11:37 AM:

And how disturbingly appropriate — given the judge involved, completely unsurprising, too — that it might as well be "Saint Barbie" today.

Yes, I do have a particularly sick sense of humor; did you really need to ask?

#6 ::: Andrew Willett ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 11:38 AM:

For those curious about the asterisks: they're not broken, they just serve a different purpose than you might expect. Mouse over them and wait for the title text to pop up.

#7 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 12:04 PM:

Santa Barbara is also synchretized with the Santería Changó, who, among other of his caminos, is the most powerful sorcerer who ever lived, which is how he became and ancestor and an orisha.

This is his day too. All over Cuba, santeros who have Changó are drinking rum, playing drums and otherwise celebrating their birthday.

Love, C.

#8 ::: Constance ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 12:07 PM:

Eeek! How could I have neglected to mention that Changó is also the orisha of the drums, god of thunder and lightening that he is!

Love, C.

#9 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 12:14 PM:

You know, I was looking for some good saints this morning. How very useful this post was!

#10 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 12:16 PM:

Some years ago, when I was still a member of my parish RCIA team -- Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults -- I had a long conversation with a woman who was making the jump from Baptist to Catholic. She was having a great deal of trouble understanding what it means to invoke the saints. I explained that no, it's not idolatry; Catholics don't pray to the saints in the way we pray to God. Rather, we ask the saints to pray for us, just as we might ask friends and neighbors to do so. She has eight sisters and brothers -- Don't you ask them to pray for you? I said. In the same way, we ask the saints, known and unknown, to pray for us. (Are there Christians who do, in the privacy of their own heads, pray to a saint? I am sure there are, and I am sure the Lord takes all such prayers to Himself with delight.) I have always found the phrase "Communion of Saints" to be incredibly comforting: I imagine ranks upon ranks of the blessed and holy dead praying for you, for me, for the souls in Purgatory, for the whole whirling universe, a great humming generator of spiritual energy.

I had no idea that Saint Barbara was the saint of mathematicians. My mathematician friends need to know this at once! Lord only knows which saints they've been praying to: Newton, Hilbert, and Turing, probably.

#11 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 12:16 PM:

There is, of course, a Chesterton poem about St Barbara too.

http://homepages.tcp.co.uk/~maya/barbara.html

Yes, actually, it is my admittedly ambitious goal in life to become Making Light's go-to source for Chesterton. What Jim Macdonald is to horrific trauma, abi is to bookbinding and the Netherlands, and Xopher is to chocolate, I will be to the poetry of portly Edwardian Anglo-Catholic conservatism.

If I were an aviator I would be disappointed by only having St Teresa, rather than the far more awesome St Christina the Astonishing, who could actually fly. As it is, I've always rather liked Elijah as a patron for artillerymen, specifically forward observers; went up to the massed priests of Baal on his own, mocked them (rather wittily) and then called in fire from heaven to prove his point.

#12 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 12:28 PM:

We are serious Vatican, this are not serious saint. You cannot has.

#13 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 12:49 PM:

I think this might be a good time to mention a Barbara who posts here sometimes, and who is at least partly responsible for Our Hostess' love of language and facility therewith: Teresa's mom, Barbara who-was-Barbara-Nielsen-until-she-married-Linkmeister's-Uncle-Soap-whose-last-name-I-can't-recall.

#14 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 12:50 PM:

Constance #7: I was going to mention that Santa Bárbara was syncretised with Changó/Xangó in Santería. It's interesting that a male Yoruba (well, in Cuba, Lucumí) god becomes a female saint because of the shared attributes.

#15 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 12:54 PM:

Ajay at #11:
I momentarily misread "if I were an aviator" as "if I were an avatar."

#16 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 12:57 PM:

I meant to say "Thank you, Ma'am" to Teresa's mom in that post above.

As you know, Bob Fragano, in the early days of Santería they were also trying to hide what they were doing from the Masters...and the things they did to hide Yorubá* religion from the Masters became part of what they actually believed.

*In Yorubá the accent mark indicates high tone; the stress is on the initial, which makes the word 'Yorubá' a bit difficult for most English speakers to pronounce.

#17 ::: Mikael Vejdemo Johansson ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 01:16 PM:

And this makes me wonder, immediately, what is an appropriate way to honour St. Barbara? What is a legal, in California, way to honour her? I do recall hearing someone talk about fireworks and firecrackers being essentially illegal hereabouts, which might limit my options somewhat.

#18 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 01:20 PM:
Matt sketched out Burke's version of what had happened, without giving Burke's name. As he talked, Sabbatello showed more and more annoyance.
"I see," he said, when Matt was done. "It is true that some of the tests are psychological rather than overt. But this matter of the crash -- who fed you that nonsense?"
Matt did not say anything.
"Never mind. You can protect your informant -- it won't matter in the least in the long run. But about the crash --" He considered. "I'd give my word of honor to you -- in fact I do -- but if you accept the hypothesis your friend holds, then you won't pay any attention to my sworn word." He thought a moment. "Are you a Catholic?"
"Uh, no sir." Matt was startled.
"It doesn't matter. Do you know who Saint Barbara is?"
"Not exactly, sir. The field --"
"Yes, the field. She was a third-century martyr. The point is that she is the patron saint of all who deal with high explosives, rocket men among others." He paused.
"If you go over to the chapel, you will find that a mass is scheduled during which Saint Barbara will be asked to intercede for the souls of the men who were lost this afternoon. I think you realize that no priest would lend his office to any such chicanery as your friend suggests?"
Matt nodded solemnly. "I see your point, sir. I don't need to go to the chapel -- I've found out what I needed to know."

-- Robert Heinlein, Space Cadet

#19 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 01:35 PM:

So, is Saint Barbara Stephen Harper's patron saint?

#20 ::: Mark Wise ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 01:41 PM:

So, St. Margaret of Antioch ===> the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch? Darned clever, those Python boys.

#21 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 02:27 PM:

Do the Mythbusters know that Babs is their Patron Saint of ka-booms and rocketeers?

#22 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 02:51 PM:

Serge -
Do the Mythbusters know that Babs is their Patron Saint of ka-booms and rocketeers?

I would not be at all surprised if Jamie were well aware of St. Barbara - he might discount the whole thing as a bunch of folderol (being a skeptic and atheist, air), but he's likely aware of the historical relation.

(somewhere I still have my St. Barbara medallion, from when I was an associate of the East Kingdom Royal Artillery. I should dig that up, given the amount of shooting I've been doing recently - not really a believer, but, hey, every little bit helps).

#23 ::: Mikael Vejdemo Johansson ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 03:05 PM:

I wonder how mathematician's ended up in this mix? Is it because of their role in computing optimal charges and angles for artillery?

#24 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 03:14 PM:

C.E. Petit, #5: Wow, talk about mixed emotions! On the one hand, I really dislike the "you thought of it while you were working for us, so it's ours" argument; on the other, I hate hate HATE the Bratz dolls and won't be at all sorry to see them disappear.

#25 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 03:29 PM:

Scott Taylor @ 22... I still have my St. Barbara medallion

Is it... ah... cannonical?

#26 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 04:00 PM:

Another layer of patronage: Saint Barbara, lady of the tower, is also the origin (or one of them) of the story of Rapunzel. As someone with extremely long hair, I have not so much a devotion to her as an affinity.

I am also enormously impressed by the idea of fortification builders and artillerymen sharing a patroness. It bespeaks an evenhandedness, and a sense of commonality even in war, which I can but admire.

#27 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 04:09 PM:

Serge @ 25: Good lord! Are you still bombarding these poor folks with puns? I hope you can combat this tendency to take cheap shots at defenseless people.

#28 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 04:11 PM:

Wow, St. Barbie and St. Elmo. Can the Christmas Shopping Season be far behind?*

* Yes, unfortunately this year it's lying in a ditch, suffering from a bad hangover from investing in too many dodgy financial instruments. So who's the patron saint of Greedy Financiers?

#29 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 04:12 PM:

Joel Polowin @18 I immediately thought of Space Cadet too, but I figured someone would beat me to it. It's one of my favorite Heinlein juveniles, tied neck and neck with Have Spacesuit, Will Travel

#30 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 04:18 PM:

I have an ikon od St. Barbara. It was hard to find; not one most people look for in street markets.

I found her long before I joined up. She is well known in the Army, even among those who don't belong to one of her canonic groups of charges.

Those of us who end up in one of those groups (I'm a armorer), well the church has been wrong before, we can live with Her being in error now.

#31 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 04:18 PM:

Ginger @ 27... Better cheap shots than sour grape shot.

#32 ::: Tania ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 04:18 PM:

The School of Mines and ROTC folks at the university I attended used to have an annual celebration of St. Barbara's day. Everyone was invited to enjoy a bonfire, have a potluck, drink beer, someone (usually faculty) would pontificate on St. Barbara and then they'd blow some shit up.

The observance off sometime in the early 90s. Apparently MODERN university administration types don't like mixing fire, booze, and explosives. What a bunch of wet blankets.

#33 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 04:19 PM:

Who's the patron saint of radiation safety? Not nuclear weapons, but radioactive source-based equipment like X-ray machines and irradiators?


Not that I would glow in the dark or anything.

#34 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 04:22 PM:

Serge @ 25

Is it... ah... cannonical?

Yes, and secular as well.

#35 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 04:25 PM:

for builders, the mortar that binds them to artillerists is St. Barbara.

#36 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 04:26 PM:

Tania @32:
Apparently MODERN university administration types don't like mixing fire, booze, and explosives. What a bunch of wet blankets.

You do know who's the patron saint of wet blankets, don't you?

Jim Macdonald.

#37 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 04:26 PM:

Mikael Vejdemo Johansson @17:
And this makes me wonder, immediately, what is an appropriate way to honour St. Barbara? What is a legal, in California, way to honour her? I do recall hearing someone talk about fireworks and firecrackers being essentially illegal hereabouts, which might limit my options somewhat.

Homemade Tesla coils?

@23:
I wonder how mathematician's ended up in this mix? Is it because of their role in computing optimal charges and angles for artillery?

Possible- aside from that, there's generally a lot of science and engineering related stuff on that list.

#38 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 04:28 PM:

Serge @ 25 -
Scott Taylor @ 22... I still have my St. Barbara medallion

Is it... ah... cannonical?

[totally deadpan]
Yes, it portrays her in front of a pair of muzzle-loading field pieces, why do you ask?
[/deadpan]

hee hee... Serge is hoist on his own petard....

:-)

#39 ::: Tania ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 04:36 PM:

abi @36 I thought Jim was the patron saint of wool blankets. They have many uses, don't melt when exposed to heat, and are still insulative when wet.

Ginger @33 St. Michael Archangel is the patron saint of radiologists. Which isn't the same thing at all. Hmm...

#40 ::: Theophylact ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 04:39 PM:

Don't people who work with gunpowder have to keep wet blankets around?

#41 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 04:40 PM:

Tania @ 32 -
The observance off sometime in the early 90s. Apparently MODERN university administration types don't like mixing fire, booze, and explosives. What a bunch of wet blankets.

poo on them. that sucks. Almost any party is better with the addition of fire and explosives - as long as their usage is restricted to *before* the alcohol is imbibed, at least by the fire-wielders and demolitions people.

(A friend of mine describes the BATFE as "Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives - Use in reverse order for one hell of a party.")

#42 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 04:42 PM:

Scott Taylor @ 38... Serge is hoist on his own petard

It's nice that I haven't yet been called a bore.

#43 ::: Tania ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 04:52 PM:

Serge, please pardon me while I rifle through my armory of black powder puns.

#44 ::: Keith ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 05:03 PM:

So who's the patron saint of Greedy Financiers?

Saint Ebenezer of Londinium.

#45 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 05:04 PM:

Tania... It is with bated breath that I await your next epistolary outing.

#46 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 05:05 PM:

Tania, they will have to be a high caliber, lest we lost sight of the target and have to search through maggie's drawers to locate a suitable set of replacements in the range of those persons present.

#47 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 05:15 PM:

xopher @ #13, that would be Dowell, thank you very much.

#48 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 05:36 PM:

Mikael Vejdemo Johansson @17:
And this makes me wonder, immediately, what is an appropriate way to honour St. Barbara? What is a legal, in California, way to honour her? I do recall hearing someone talk about fireworks and firecrackers being essentially illegal hereabouts, which might limit my options somewhat.

I dunno if ranges thereabouts are legally allowed to rent firearms, but that would be one option.

(I would go shooting tonight, and bring the Nagant* - BIG BOOM - but the outdoor ranges close at sunset, and plinking away with the .22 just doesn't seem appropriate, somehow).

*Mosin Nagant service rifle, chambered for the 7.62x54R (for Rimmed, or sometimes Russian) round. Mine is the 1938 carbine version - and the normally peppy and boisterous cartridge the Nagant fires is... well, rather thunderous when fired from a barrel that's almost a foot shorter than the round was originally designed to be fired from...).

#49 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 05:44 PM:

Scott, you might want to point out the recoil of that beast (I don't have a problem with it, unless shooting prone, when it's much closer contact to much less meat between it and the bones of my collar/shoulder).

More to the point, it's hard to get ammo loaded out for the full-sized rifle anymore. Wolf is the only manufacturer I know of making it new, and the older stuff I have (with the heavier slug and powder charge) is almost all steel-cored, which; because of fire dangers, most ranges prohibit.

But the boom is nice.

An M-1, or M1A, fired with some speed, also makes quite satisfactory booms, if not quite the level of muzzle flash.

#50 ::: sienamystic ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 05:48 PM:

St. Genevieve, more famous as the patron saint of Paris, is also the patron saint of the Women's Air Corps. I'm assuming it was because she kept the city safe from Attila the Hun, although sadly she didn't do it with high explosives.

#51 ::: Ken MacLeod ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 05:58 PM:

That passage in Space Cadet is the first place I heard of St Barbara, and the first place I saw the word 'chicanery'. (I looked it up in the dictionary.) That book is also where I first encountered the word 'Monism' (which I also looked up, but couldn't figure out why in the book it was a religion).

Come to think of it, that book's also where I first learned that the Asteroid Belt is the debris of a blown-up planet - hey, I still get the chills thinking of that asteroid the space cadets come across with strata of sedimentary rock.

And ever since I read it, I've been confidently telling people that St Barbara is the patron saint of astronauts. (Which brings to mind the wonderful story told by William Dalrymple in his eye-opening book From the Holy Mountain, of finding a framed photo in a convent in Syria of Syrian (Muslim) cosmonauts who'd visited the convent to sacrifice a sheep to Mary in thanks for their safe return from the Soviet space station Mir.)

Science fiction, educating the youth of today for the challenges of tomorrow!

#52 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 06:12 PM:

Terry @ 49 -
Scott, you might want to point out the recoil of that beast (I don't have a problem with it, unless shooting prone, when it's much closer contact to much less meat between it and the bones of my collar/shoulder).

Oh, yeah - I was just talking about the noise (I shoot it with ear plugs and electronic muffs). The recoil is pretty brutal - without a slip-on recoil pad, I can shoot that rifle about six times before I give up, usually (which means one load-out - five rounds in the magazine, and one up the pipe) - it doesn't help that the stock ends in a flipping steel plate....

(God's honest truth, the one time I got to shoot a Barret .50, it hurt less than this thing does without the recoil pad).

Nagants have the advantage that they are cheap as hell (if you pay more than a hundred bucks for any Nagant, it's because it's a collector's item*, or you're getting ripped off), rugged as hell, and cheap to shoot if you can shoot surplus ammo. They are not, however, the most ergonomic weapons ever designed, nor, with stock sights, are they particularly accurate, imho (which is why mine is going to get a scout-rifle style forward scope mount, and a cheap 2-4x long-eye relief scope, sometime in January).

More to the point, it's hard to get ammo loaded out for the full-sized rifle anymore. Wolf is the only manufacturer I know of making it new, and the older stuff I have (with the heavier slug and powder charge) is almost all steel-cored, which; because of fire dangers, most ranges prohibit.

Advantages to living somewhere that has never had anything resembling a real forest fire (worst we occasionally get is field grass fires - and they don't go far), and barely knows the meaning of the word "drought" - my range doesn't give a damn what you shoot, as long as it isn't tracer, is legal for non-LEOs to own, and hits the target and the backstop - most of the ammo I have is surplus.

Other manufacturers for modern 7.62x54R include Baranul, Prvi Partizan (the other half of my ammo for the Nagant is Partizan), and the "Bears" - Silver and Brown Bear. I know all of them chamber rounds in the 180 grain range (182 for the Partizan, 185 for the Brown Bear I'm holding for a friend) - I don't know the powder load out on those, but the Partizan hurts as much as the surplus to shoot, so....

But the boom is nice.

It sure does attract attention....

An M-1, or M1A, fired with some speed, also makes quite satisfactory booms, if not quite the level of muzzle flash.

Yah. I might pick one up someday, to have in the safe, but I think for CMP I'm going to stick with my AR-15 - I'm too damn familiar with them.

*certain combinations of Nagant variant and armory are more or less common than others - for instance, the Tula armory made almost no examples of the 1938 carbine, and none from after 1941 are known to exist - so a Tula '38 is worth more than one made from other armories.

#53 ::: Mia ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 06:35 PM:

I was in Salvador, Brazil for the feast day of St. Barbara a few years ago. There was a festival, which, though not as big as the more famous festivals, was lots of fun. We all paraded through the streets and ended up at a large square where fire trucks were set up, their water tanks full of blessed water with which to shower the crowds. (Which was good, because it was a pretty hot day.)

#54 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 06:37 PM:

M-16s.... bleah.

I am too damned familiar with the M-16 family. I didn't like it much 16 years ago, and while I dislike it less now (and can take it apart while 3/4s asleep, and blindfolded), it's not my first choice for most things.

The M1/M1A are much easier to maintain, and much less forgiving of things being less than perfect, while being more consistent (the tolerances aren't the odd mix of sloppy, and super tight.

They have a little more recoil, but...

I learned to shoot .30 cal with Mauser and Mannlicher bolt actions, metal buttplates and surplus israeli machine-gun ammo. I was 16, and had less meat on me then my present light frame possesses now.

I can shoot the Nagant carbine (which I think I paid all of $90 for at a Big 5) all day, with mil-spec surplus. The only thing I've ever fired which I had to stop because of the recoil was a Marlin carbine in 45-70, loaded out to launch a 405g slug at 1850fps. Two of those (out a weapon which had a very narrow buttstock, and comes in at 9 lbs, or so, fully loaded, i.e. about the same as an M-16 with a 30rd clip), and I was done for the day.

I do think about getting a pad for the Nagant, but I'm lazy.

#55 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 06:46 PM:

My apologies for the puns, everybody.

#56 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 07:12 PM:

Serge @ 55: Er . . . why? Is that a pun I missed?

Seriously, if you are serious--don't you dare apologize for puns! I couldn't make a decent pun (or even an indecent one) to save my life, but I love snickering over other people's. And yours are wonderful. So are everyone's response-puns.

#57 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 07:51 PM:

Mary Frances @ #56, respunses, surely?

#58 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 07:52 PM:

Mary Frances @ 56... Thanks. I was thinking that, especially today, I might have overdone it a bit much.

#59 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 08:33 PM:

Linkmeister @ 57: See? I completely missed that!

Serge @ 58: I (personally) don't think it's possible to overdo puns. They're part of the kind of cheerfully illogical word-play that makes a language a language and not--well, whatever else it might be.

Sigh. I think maybe I've had too long a day myself, here . . .

#60 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 09:13 PM:

..do I see Serge taking a powder? Or are you aiming for another target?

Let's all salute him, for he is our punnery sergeant, and he never bores anyone. Why, he's got a high caliber of puns -- we shell admire them for years to come.

#61 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 09:20 PM:

Terry Karney @54 -
M-16s.... bleah.
I am too damned familiar with the M-16 family. I didn't like it much 16 years ago, and while I dislike it less now (and can take it apart while 3/4s asleep, and blindfolded), it's not my first choice for most things.

It had been a while since I actually owned one (I've been meaning to get one for a while,. but the combination of opportunity, money, and placement just came together about a month or so ago), so I can't field-strip one in my sleep any more - but I'm pretty sure I can do it blindfolded again.

The M1/M1A are much easier to maintain, and much less forgiving of things being less than perfect, while being more consistent (the tolerances aren't the odd mix of sloppy, and super tight.

I've never - and I mean never, even when I was in Basic, shooting an M-16A1 that barely qualified as such (I think the lower started as an M-16(nil)) and was so damn loosey-goosey it rattled when I marched with it - had the sorts of problems with the AR-15/M-16 family that other folks have described.

I was pretty religious about at least wiping down the bolt face running a swab up the barrel whenever I had the chance (and in Ft. Disneyland, you don't have much choice - damn pine barrens suck in August), but I don't think I was that much more assiduous in my cleaning than most of my mates were. In my hands, they've pretty much all been reliable tack hammers, every one I've gotten a chance to shoot. Maybe I've just been lucky so far.

And I like the option of being able to swap out calibers and configurations by swapping out the upper - lets me use a single rifle for multiple different sports (swap to 6.8mm or .50 Beowulf for hunting, switch between my current 16" barrel for three-gun to a 20" or 24" HBAR for distance shooting, etc.). This appeals to the cheap-ass bastard in me, since I can spend 300-800 on a new upper, instead of 700 - 1500 on a whole new gun. (Not that I'm going to be anytime soon, it seems - uppers are almost impossible to get ahold of right now - DPMS currently has a disclaimer on their webpage that basically says "we'll get it to you when we can, but assume everything is backordered. Yes, we mean everything.")

They have a little more recoil, but...
I learned to shoot .30 cal with Mauser and Mannlicher bolt actions, metal buttplates and surplus israeli machine-gun ammo. I was 16, and had less meat on me then my present light frame possesses now.

Most of my early shooting was low-caliber, or shotgun, with very little in-between - .22 match shooting most weeks, with the occasional trip out to the local FLGS (Friendly Local Gun Store - Creekside, for those who are familiar with the Upstate area) to shoot some clays, or (very occasionally) shoot up some paper with the M1 Carbine (the carbine was the family Shit Hits The Fan gun, and dad didn't like shooting through the stockpile of ammo he had for it) or (very occasionally) the .30-30 Winchester. The first extended exposure I got to major caliber shooting that wasn't blowing up clays was when I joined the Army - and most of that was 5.56mm NATO (although my MG qualification was on an M-60).

I've shot a lot of different stuff since, but haven't had many large caliber guns I could shoot often enough to get really familiar with them - the Nagant is the first 6mm+ rifle I've owned that I felt comfortable shooting (the Winchester is over a century old, now).

I can shoot the Nagant carbine (which I think I paid all of $90 for at a Big 5) all day, with mil-spec surplus. The only thing I've ever fired which I had to stop because of the recoil was a Marlin carbine in 45-70, loaded out to launch a 405g slug at 1850fps. Two of those (out a weapon which had a very narrow buttstock, and comes in at 9 lbs, or so, fully loaded, i.e. about the same as an M-16 with a 30rd clip), and I was done for the day.

Heh. Some of those lever-action carbines were chambered in some amazingly brutal rounds.

I'm sure I'll get used to the Nagant as I shoot it more (just bought *it* a few months ago, and haven't had much opportunity to take it out - especially now that the nights are dark, about the only times I get to shoot anything that isn't a .22LR are weekends).

I do think about getting a pad for the Nagant, but I'm lazy.

I got one of the Limbsaver slip-on pads, and it seems to be working pretty good. I'm thinking of re-stocking the Nagant with a synthetic Monte Carlo stock (to drop the weight, and make it a better rifle for brush hunting Whitetails) - if I do, I'll mount a permanent recoil pad on the stock.

#62 ::: pat greene ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 10:40 PM:

Ajay, I thought -- and Wikipedia backs me up, for what it's worth -- that the patron saint of aviators and astronauts was St. Joseph of Cupertino, who supposedly levitated.

#63 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2008, 10:52 PM:

Tania at #32:
"Apparently MODERN university administration types don't like mixing fire, booze, and explosives."

Well, not just modern ones. In the early days of Oberlin College, they had to make a rule that said:
"No student shall burn gunpowder without the permission of the president."

This is lovingly re-quoted along with other quaint rules in their official histories.

Apparently the reason for this rule is it was once fashionable to light gunpowder trails. (i e make a line of gunpowder on the ground, light one end, and see the explosion rip across to the other end.)

#64 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 12:17 AM:

Xopher, Barbara is my mother's name, and my mother's mother, and her mother before her; but it's my middle name. I got one sober practical well-attested saint and one EVM.

Bruce Cohen, the patron saint of financiers, greedy or otherwise, is Saint Matthew, who was a money changer and tax collector before his calling.

Ginger, the patron saint of those who work safely with radioactive materials is Saint Michael the Archangel, on account of his protective shield. I haven't seen any mention of a patron saint for those who work with unshielded radioactivity, but I suspect it's Saint Leonard.

Ken, Saint Barbara obviously ought to be the patron saint of astronauts, and would have been a shoo-in if the matter had been considered at the time Heinlein wrote Space Cadet. Unfortunately, there's that silly business of her being ahistorical, so astronauts have officially been stuck with Saint Joseph of Cupertino. On the one hand, he's got the best aerodynamic characteristics of any saint in the calendar -- if the saints held an airshow, Saint Joseph of Cupertino would take top honors, followed by Saint Christina the Amazing, with Saint Teresa of Avila taking third. On the other hand, he was clearly of subnormal intelligence, and didn't otherwise have a lot of personality.

The question is, who's really in charge of assigning patronage? Historically, it hasn't been the Vatican. Patron saints become patron saints because people think they are. It's my honest opinion that a couple of centuries down the road, there's a better chance that spacefarers will be observing the Feast of Saint Barbara than that they'll be dutifully appealing to Saint Joseph of Cupertino. I wouldn't be surprised if Saint Nicholas got in there as well, since astronauts are sailors of a sort.

The patron saint of robots can only be Elmo.

#65 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 12:59 AM:

Teresa @ 64: Um, I don't think Christina the Amazing (or Astonishing, unless I'm thinking of a different person?) ever actually got officially sainted, so I don't think she can be a patron saint of anything specific. Pity, really. Anyway, if Saint Barbara doesn't get a look-in for astronauts, I'd personally vote for Teresa of Avila as an alternate. I've always liked her attention to detail . . .

#66 ::: janetl ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 01:02 AM:

I did just buy a small supply of fireworks, but I won't set them off for Saint Barbara. I'm saving them up for January 20th, a day that I'm looking forward to with some veneration!

#67 ::: Anne Sheller ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 01:57 AM:

As one who has helped deep fry a turkey, and, I think, told the story here before (the Great Pennsic Turkey Conflagration may ring bells), I thank St. Barbara that no actual explosions occurred.

#68 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 02:34 AM:

Teresa Barbara writes in #64:

It's my honest opinion that a couple of centuries down the road, there's a better chance that spacefarers will be observing the Feast of Saint Barbara than that they'll be dutifully appealing to Saint Joseph of Cupertino.

Around here, we presume that he is the patron of Macintosh users and Ipod wearers.

#69 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 04:48 AM:

I am also enormously impressed by the idea of fortification builders and artillerymen sharing a patroness.

ObSF: "Chromatic Aberration" by Mike Ford, patron saint of neolithic catering.

#70 ::: Alex ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 06:02 AM:

Which brings to mind the wonderful story told by William Dalrymple in his eye-opening book From the Holy Mountain, of finding a framed photo in a convent in Syria of Syrian (Muslim) cosmonauts who'd visited the convent to sacrifice a sheep to Mary in thanks for their safe return from the Soviet space station Mir.

This reminds me of a recent story about aircraft maintenance engineers in Pakistan (I think) being caught sacrificing a goat after successfully completing complex repairs to a Boeing 757.

Which further reminds me of an ObSF: Nevil Shute, Round the Bend. It's about a start-up air cargo operation in the UAE; just not one of the ones I'm interested in, which tend to work for the other guy.

#71 ::: Pyre ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 07:20 AM:

ajay @11: If I were an aviator I would be disappointed by only having St Teresa,...

But merely carrying a bag of Scrabble™ vowels to sacrifice as necessary would keep you safe from trolls and all other sorts of lowlife!

________________________________________________


Keying off "Plays Well With Lightning", which reminds me of the charge-tossing characters in Heroes, will somebody talk me down?

After grooving along with this show for a season and a half, suddenly I'm ready to give up on it, cold turkey. My suspension of disbelief just plummeted, and I can't get past that. It's not the characters, the superpowers, or the interminably twisted soap-opera plot. It's the solar eclipse in the last episode.

You know, the annular eclipse of the sun whose "totality" lasts for hours, so that the events of the entire episode can take place during it, concurrently in Kansas, Texas, New York, and Haiti -- all of which are simultaneously in line with the moon and sun in order to see that ring of fire hanging in the sky throughout the day.

Unlike real solar eclipses, which have a narrow track of totality (the "umbra") and somewhat wider track of only partial eclipse (the "penumbra"), outside of which no-one will see any eclipse at all -- and the period of totality along the umbra track never gets above 7.5 minutes, usually less.

Flying people I could take. Telekinesis, telepathy, invisibility, turning objects to gold, shooting lightning bolts from fingertips, sure, why not?

But placing the sun, the moon, Kansas, Texas, New Tork, and Haiti along a straight line -- concurrently -- for several hours -- and then putting everything back in its proper place and state of motion is such a major rearrangement of the world as to merit some recognition by the show that they are doing it. They don't appear to recognize that. Pfffffffff.

#72 ::: rams ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 08:35 AM:

Teresa -- Sober? Practical? A woman who involuntarily levitated, even when she had nuns sit on her skirts? (I always like the notion God was pushing her buttons for standing in the mud and shouting at Him "If this is the way you treat your friends, no wonder you have so few!") Called the tiny St. John of the Cross her "half-a-monk." Woman couldn't even rot properly -- she tickles my Protestant heart.

And I agree that the charm of saints is how democratic they are. Vatican only confirms -- they have to have a certain number of prayed-for-miracles (rules have changed lately on number, I think, but martyrs get a discount) to qualify -- which means people have to have been praying to 'em before they were saints. Me, I'd put my money on Joseph Bernadin of Chicago

Everyone now, a rousing chorus of "For All the Saints" -- Ralph Vaughn Williams setting, of course...

#73 ::: Eimear Ní Mhéalóid ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 09:03 AM:

St. Barbara was fairly popular in the West of Ireland; my youngest aunt is called Barbara (or Bairbre). The Naomh Bairbre is a US-built Galway hooker which has sailed to Ireland - Steve Mulkerrins who built it is actually my col ochtar, let me see, third cousin in this case.

#74 ::: Daniel Klein ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 10:04 AM:

Am I the only one who giggled at the mental image of sailing a hooker? Yes? Oh.

The area where I grew up in Germany, the Saarland, basically had its entire economy centred around coal mining for the last 100 years or so. We're now very very painfully moving out of that--people hate random mining quakes that in one case had a stone angel fall off a church onto a public square where just an hour earlier children had been playing, and pumping millions a year into an industry just to keep it running at a deficit isn't thrilling either, but mining is still somewhat of a sacrosanct concept in the Saarland. Someone tells you he worked in a mine once and you look at him differently. This is why I knew St Barbara mostly as the patron saint of mining. I know from my mother, who visited a mine with the town council she was part of, that each mine has a chapel to St Barbara and that miners still regularly pray before and after a shift.

I also knew vaguely that she was the Patron Saint of a Lot of Other Things, but damn, that is a LOT of things. Gunners, miners, brewers? Really? She must be the manliest female saint ever.

#75 ::: Nicole TWN ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 10:15 AM:

Explosive Virgin Martyrs

Band name!

#76 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 11:04 AM:

a US-built Galway hooker which has sailed to Ireland

"Hello, sailor."

#77 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 11:06 AM:

> a US-built Galway hooker which has sailed to Ireland

"Hello, sailor."

Nothing happens here.

#78 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 11:18 AM:

I note with some dismay that there doesn't seem to be a patron saint of gangsters.

If so, may I suggest George "Bugs" Moran? He was a Catholic, an altarboy, and in later life attempted to follow the laws of the Church as much as he could (while still being a gangster--for example, while he had no problem with selling alcohol during Prohibition, he didn't run prostitutes because it was against Holy Mother Church). He showed mercy even while committing mob hits (which is why Johnny "The Silver Fox" Torrio is buried in Green-Wood cemetery (with an altar in his mausoleum all set for Mass, so on the Last Day he can get things rolling fast) rather than in Chicago), and he died after having made a full confession and presumably in a state of grace.

#79 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 11:46 AM:

rams at 72, with all due respect, if you want a rousing chorus, "For All the Saints" is not the way to go. All rise -- grab your hymnals and your hats, and sing out, boys and girls!

"O when the Saints, go marching in,
O when the Saints go marching in,
O Lord I want to be in that number
When the Saints go marching in!!"

Amen!! Hallelujah.

#80 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 11:55 AM:

I want one:
http://www.co-of-stbarbara.co.uk/

Or rather, I want to test one against a castle or modern house.

#81 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 12:08 PM:

78: Interesting, but I think he'd need some verified miracles to qualify for canonisation. That scene in "Pulp Fiction" comes to mind...

#82 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 12:18 PM:

Pyre, #71: Holy shit. I'm not watching the show, but that would bug the hell out of me too.

And it absolutely makes sense that this would bother you more than all the other impossible things you mention. Those things proceed logically from the one basic premise of the show, which is that superheroes and superpowers actually exist. But this has nothing to do with superpowers, it's just physically wrong. As such, it pings the "hang by the neck until dead" button.

#83 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 12:35 PM:

James @ 78: Well, if Bugs isn't available, St. Nicholas is the patron saint of thieves and pawnbrokers. Maybe he could take on gangsters as a sideline?

In the course of checking that, I also discovered Saint Blandina, the patron saint of those falsely accused of cannibalism . . .

#84 ::: Lois Fundis ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 12:35 PM:

#75 ::: Nicole TWN ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 10:15 AM:

Explosive Virgin Martyrs

Band name!

#76 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 11:04 AM:

a US-built Galway hooker which has sailed to Ireland

"Hello, sailor."

I'm going to have to stop reading this blog at the Reference Desk. It's becoming to hard to stop laughing out loud.

As someone who has several generations of railroad workers in her family tree (thus the several train ornaments on my Christmas trees), I was curious about the association between St. Barbara and railroad workers. Ah! Blowing up mountains -- or at least their insides -- to make tunnels or other pathways for the steel rails. This makes sense. Not so much for yardmasters like my dad, or car inspectors like my great-grandfather, but I'll accept it on their (deceased Protestant) behalfs. (Behalves?)

Oh, and my Greek Orthodox co-worker assures me Barbara is still an official saint in her Church. So maybe we need more Orthodox astronauts.

#85 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 12:56 PM:

Janetl (66), is that for Martin Luther King Day?

Pyre (71), I'm so sorry. That one's unfixable. The very act of trying to imagine how it might have happened, of visualizing it, produces instant revulsion.

My advice: be patient. Let it float or hover there in your mind, not doing anything in particular. After some time, an ingenious thought will attach itself. Let it stay there and slowly take root. It will attract others. Eventually you'll accrete a strange but satisfactory explanation. It may be one you don't want to look at too closely, lest you see the holes, or it may be quite solid but lead off in strange directions. Whatever. The important thing is to not force it to make sense before its time.

I had to do that with every historical sequence in Buffy and Angel. I finally decided that there's an extra country just off the coast of Europe (possibly the remains of Atlantis) where all the historical bits took place.

Rams (72), a less practical saint would have just levitated and been done with it.

#86 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 01:12 PM:

Teresa@85: I had to do that with every historical sequence in Buffy and Angel. I finally decided that there's an extra country just off the coast of Europe (possibly the remains of Atlantis) where all the historical bits took place.

My theory is that historical sequences in visual entertainment media (especially including Highlander and Jossverse flashbacks, both the film and tv-series versions of The Wild Wild West, and just about everything anywhere in any format having to do with the Middle Ages) take place in the Hollywood Alternate Universe, where past reality is sometimes subtly and sometimes radically different from the one we think we know.

I'm not certain, but I believe that the same alternate universe also contains Medieval Ancient-Greece-and-Rome, and Shakespearian Italy.

#87 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 01:29 PM:

My theory about the Impossible Solar Eclipse in Heroes is that it was only visible to those who had abilities, because it was caused by an as-yet-undetermined Dark Matter orbiting object that is somehow related to them getting the powers in the first place. Since Dark Matter is invisible to normals, they never saw the eclipse - which explains the lack of everyone else looking up in the sky and exclaiming, "Hey, look...it's an unscheduled eclipse!"

It could happen. :-)

#88 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 01:41 PM:

Debrah Doyle @ 86... Let's not forget the Time Tunnel. I think one episode had Tony & Doug run into Robin Hood, and another had them deal with the Round Table, if I remember correctly.

#89 ::: rams ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 01:44 PM:

Ah, but Lizzy L@79, you've conceded the main point in your closing -- the marching saints are good for trumpets (and Dixieland clarinets,) but at the end of bellowing a martial

What though the strife be fierce,
the warfare long,
Beats on the ear the distant triumph song.
Then hearts rejoice again, and arms are strong
[ready for it?]
Ha.....AAA...le...LUja,(boomp) halle- lu - ja.

At the end, I say, you get to empty your lungs over two sinewy and convoluted hallelujas. Very satisfying.

(sorry-- hard to notate that appealing syncopation using this kind of keyboard.)

#90 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 01:49 PM:

#89
I think he liked that bass line - it's carrying the not-at-all-the-same melody like a bandwagon. (That was the version favored by the organist at the church we went to. The other tune(s) for it in the hymnal - pedestrian. Methodists like belting out hymns.)

#91 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 02:08 PM:

Bill Higgins @ 68 -- No no, that's St. Stephen of Cupertino. His order wears black turtlenecks and chants "BOOM!"

#92 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 02:09 PM:

Speaking of Teresa, although not the Vatican's one...

Did you know that she can toss fireballs?

#93 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 02:37 PM:

Debra Doyle writes in #86:

My theory is that historical sequences in visual entertainment media (especially including Highlander and Jossverse flashbacks, both the film and tv-series versions of The Wild Wild West, and just about everything anywhere in any format having to do with the Middle Ages) take place in the Hollywood Alternate Universe, where past reality is sometimes subtly and sometimes radically different from the one we think we know.

I'm not certain, but I believe that the same alternate universe also contains Medieval Ancient-Greece-and-Rome, and Shakespearian Italy.

Long ago Jo Walton explained how The Past looks to some people. I found this greatly enlightening.

The Past happened one misty day a long time ago. Another name for the past
is Antiquity. Some people call the mist "The Mists of Antiquity". A lot of
The Past happened very early in the morning before anyone got up, and so
everyone missed it. Nobody knows what this bit of The Past was. This bit is
known as "lost in the Mists of Antiquity". There is an erroneous assumption
that The Past happened not only a long time ago but a long way away, hence
the phrases "The Distant Past" and "The Past is another country". This is
not true. The Past happened everywhere, it happened right here as well![...]

Someone really needs to stick the whole essay on a Web site.

#94 ::: Chris W. ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 02:43 PM:

Re: TV history.

My favorite take on this is in Kris Straub's Starslip Crisis. The webcomic is set in the distant future and all of the characters are huge fans of a cop show called Concrete Universe which is set in the ancient city of Los Diego in 2005 and shows about the same level of historical fidelity to our time as Xena and Hercules showed to ancient Greece and Rome.

"Quick, the Bowler Derby Killer is escaping with a nuclear warhead in his horseless carriage! Use you cellular telegraph to wire the National Police while I give chase with my jetpack!"

Of course all the characters are really impressed with how historically detailed and accurate the show is.

#95 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 02:59 PM:

Pyre 71:

First of all, all those events in different places happened at different times. They were just shown happening together for dramatic effect, and to simplify things they showed the events at similar points in the eclipse together.

Second, the totality appeared to last for hours because the heroes and everyone they came in contact with, all clocks etc. were subject to a time-distortion field as a result of the eclipse affecting the powers of an as-yet-unintroduced character.

Third, there was also some geographical distortion to bring the various locations in line with the path of the umbra. This was no ordinary eclipse, obviously: it was an Eclipse of Power, and caused great distortions in spacetime on Earth, and not even our heroes noticed...until later. Maybe. In a future episode, they'll sort all this out.

Now, I haven't ever watched this show, so I don't know if the above explanation is satisfactory, but at least you can kinda close one eye and pretend it is, right?

But then, I went on watching Stargate SG-1 even after I realized that the rules they set up made all but a few of their adventures impossible. They established the following:

1) DHDs, and stargates, have 38 symbols on them.
2) For a given planet in our galaxy, a "gate address" consists of seven of these.
3) The last symbol in each case is the Point Of Origin (POO), unique to each planet.*
4) All the DHDs and stargates are the same.**

They then conclude that there are billions of combinations, each leading to a planet (or a ship, or a black hole, but who's counting?).

This is wrong. There are 38 combinations. One POO, one planet, the same 38 symbols on each gate.

So the 39th through nth (where n is the total number of planets visited in the series and movies) planets are impossible. I suppose you could hypothesize that planets fall into 38 groups, and that within a group they share POO symbols, but that doesn't really work with other things they established (like the iconicity of the symbols themselves).

So if I can shrug that off and keep watching, maybe you can pretend "Oh, it's a special supereclipse with spatial and temporal distortions" and keep enjoying Heroes?


*Yes, planet, not stargate: Daniel uses Earth as the POO to dial on a foreign stargate that has just arrived in Earth orbit in an early episode.
**Otherwise you could only dial a subset of all addresses from any given gate. Besides, they interchanged DHDs all the time.

#96 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 03:01 PM:

rams @ #89 -

I always assumed that penultimate alleluia was notated:

Ha.....AAA...le...LUja,(BOMF!)

But I don't know how to read an organ score.

Learning about all these exploding/levitating/flaming saints has made me very pleased to be joining the Episcoplian church. Nearly as pleased as I was when I learned all the good hymns in the Mormon hymnal were stolen from the Episcopalians. (the aforementioned "For All the Saints", as well as "All Creatures of our God and King.)

#97 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 03:01 PM:

Chris 94: Or one of Delany's future historians, who argues that the Beatles never existed, or at least never had their clothing torn off by screaming girls, because it's obviously just a late version of the story of Orpheus being torn apart by maenads.

I loved that one.

#98 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 03:04 PM:

Careful, nerdycellist. It's the Episcopal Church. I'm mentioning this now to save you the humiliation of getting that wrong, which in the EC is a heresy nearly as bad as *gasp* using the wrong fork.

#99 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 03:10 PM:

rams at 89, I do see your point. I think my own has most to do with the way we sing the two hymns in my home parish. "For All The Saints" is sung in a very stately, respectful, even reverent fashion. "The Saints Go Marching In" is sung jubilantly, at the top of one's lungs, with clapping and tambourines, and -- depending on who's celebrating Mass -- a good bit of syncopation.

#100 ::: Marna Nightingale ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 03:21 PM:

James @ 78: There's Malverde. I think he's as close to a gangster saint as it gets.

I've been known to suggest to appartment-hunting friends in the areas where he's popular to check the local candle supplies, and if he has his own shelf, you don't want to be in that neighbourhood.

#101 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 03:52 PM:

Xopher@95: Quite a lot of the Stargate TV show can be read as increasingly disspirited (and decreasingly self-consistent) attempts to rationalize the Enormously Stupid Explanation Of How It Works that appeared in the original movie. Or, if not rationalize it, at least work around it. Or, when that fails, look determinedly over the viewer's shoulder and say "Look! A monkey!"

(I have seen references that imply that during the first season, the producers really did try to come up with a different POO symbol for each new planet. Which meant that Stargates were *not* all the same. Which, if you carry through the logic, means that one symbol on the ring has to morph when you cart the thing from one planet to another. Which is why it's important to not think about it that hard.)

#102 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 03:58 PM:

Xopher @ 98 -

Noted. It's just as well I'm in the choir at a super-high church, smells & bells, funny hats parish. That way I never have to (mis)use the "E" word. Also, there's the added benefit of sounding both obscure and supercilious when stating my religion as "Anglo-Catholic".

Have your performances of "For All the Saints" also involved a chorister-initiated hairy-eyeball for that last beat before the singing starts? After hearing/singing it for over 30 years, I've begun to think that if the whole congregation isn't slightly nervous that someone's going to hit them for entering a beat early, you're doing it wrong. This is where Saints going Marching really excels - I don't think you can do it wrong!

#103 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 04:02 PM:

re 98: It's worse than heresy: it Isn't Done.

And I think the appropriate all saints tune here would be "I sing a song of the saints of God", especially "one was a soldier, and one was a priest, and one was eaten by a fierce wild beast"!

#104 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 04:11 PM:

Xopher, Andrew Plotkin

I think they just figured that invoking a new theory of physics, the POO Theory, would take care of all that crap. Or sit down for elevenses and ignore any objections, like a good ol' bear.

#105 ::: Nicole TWN ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 04:16 PM:

I remember reading something in which a future historian insists that WW2 was purely allegorical: just look at "Churchill", obviously a combination of symbols from "Pilgrim's Progress" (church + city on the hill), and therefore the whole story was a Christian allegory of civilization's last stand against the dehumanizing forces of modernity.

As an idea, I rather like it*--our biggest war, swept aside by the tides of history--but it does have the morally troubling corollary that, in this future history, the Holocaust is *also* viewed as fictional. This may be accurate, given human nature**, but I still like to think that we'll remember it, at least as a byword for horrors.

* I have a weakness for the sort of future history that mixes up history and legend and pop culture and weird myths that no one in their right mind would believe, and lets the reader sort it all out. I have daydreams about the campfire stories of a post-apocalyptic America, wherein the trickster Coyote of Native American lore fights his eternal nemesis, Roadrunner, out on the endless crumbling concrete ribbons of the desert.

** Within a lifetime of the American Civil War, people were already saying things like, "Come now, former slaves, aren't you exaggerating your sufferings just a tad?" It's a damn good thing we have things like those narratives of slave lives collected during and after the Civil War to affirm that, yes, the life of a slave purely sucked.

#106 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 04:19 PM:

Bruce@104 -- Ack, don't get me started on a detailed discussion of what they were able to make sense of and what they weren't. (Sorry -- I committed fanfic this week and therefore have too much of this stuff swapped in in my head.)

I *don't* think the show was set up with an attitude of "magic physics, ignore all logical problems", however.

#107 ::: Tania ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 04:26 PM:

BC (STM) 140 Now there's a movement I can get behind.

I make myself not think about historical accuracy and consistency in TV shows, or I get ranty and stabby about lousy research.

#108 ::: pat greene ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 04:38 PM:

Well, Xopher, it's the Episcopal church in the U.S. or Canada, but it may be the Anglican church somewhere else, or just "the church" in the England -- but not in Scotland because they're Presbyterians (Wait, didn't we just have a discussion about established versus disestablished churches in another thread?)

And then I am not sure exactly what the new splinter group folks are calling themselves, other than "The Anglicans in North America who are NOT those women-and-gay-loving Episcopal Church of the USA who are damned because they IGNORE SCRIPTURE or at least refuse to interpret it the way we do!"

Must not vent about stupid schismatics....must not vent about stupid schismatics.... Bitter? Me? Why do you ask?

On the lighter side:
How do you identify the corpse at an Episcopalian funeral?

They're the only person lying down.


Okay, okay, so it's not that funny -- I just thought it would be disrespectful to tell the Unitarian Jokes I know, seeing as how I am not a Unitarian. And while being Episcopalian where I am does have its advantages -- ritual mass and ordination* of women and gays! Woo hoo! -- some of us (not me) do have a tendency to take church very very seriously. It didn't take me long after converting from Catholicism to figure out why Episcopalians were sometimes called the "frozen chosen."

*priests and bishops, too: my diocese elected a woman bishop last year; the diocese immediately north nearly elected a gay man, which had they done so would have given Gene Robinson someone else kicked out of the Lambeth conference** he could hang out with.

**meetings of all the bishops of the Anglican Communion held every few years at Canterbury, unless you are gay, in which case you are disinvited. You can go if you're a woman, you just have to deal with bishops from other parts of the world refusing to talk to you, and (true: I heard it from my bishop) very polite English protesters who tell you to your face "I'm so sorry, but you're a whore of the church."

#109 ::: pat greene ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 04:46 PM:

nerdycellist, I had not read your identification as an Anglo-Catholic before I started on my rant. I'm sorry for my unpleasant tone; the announcement of the new group claiming itself as an alternative Anglican province in North America has upset me greatly, but that's no excuse for my boorish behavior.

#110 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 05:00 PM:

Pat @108 --

In Canada, it's the Anglican Church of Canada. (That's even what the ACC on my dog tags means.)

#111 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 05:19 PM:

Pat, no worries. I have very "unchristian" feelings towards those bigots. I wish they'd just get the hell out of the church already, but then I'm not the archbishop of canterbury, so my opinion doesn't quite count in this

FWIW, Anglo-Catholicism is a flavor of Anglicanism/Episcopalianism noted for an almost rigid liturgical conservativism combined with a very liberal social outlook.* The clergy and majority of my parish are gay, and they are very pro-woman. The bishop of Los Angeles and one of the priests marched in Pride this year. I could not set foot in a church that spent any time whatsoever preaching misogyny or homophobia, no matter how great their music program was.

* please note these are the observations of a current catechumen and alto who has yet to be confirmed.

#112 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 05:36 PM:

And then there's the recent news about the Vatican opposing a U. N. resolution to de-criminalize homosexuality.

I try to take the long view, but sometimes it's very difficult...

#113 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 05:44 PM:

Lizzy, the irony here is that the Vatican also says it's opposed to the death penalty. I think they may need to spend some time thinking about those two messages.

#114 ::: Ulrika O'Brien ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 06:13 PM:

Holy explosive device, Batman. Presumably Barbara is the proper bearer of the holy hand grenade of Antioch, and thus life anticipates parody. Great googly moogly. It never ceases to amaze that people actually believe this stuff.

#115 ::: Alex ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 06:27 PM:

The area where I grew up in Germany, the Saarland, basically had its entire economy centred around coal mining for the last 100 years or so.

I know, I know. It's like that in a lot of places. Mining is a fundamentally horrible and dangerous and shitty job. Further, burning coal is about as morally defensible or pragmatically sensible beyond the next five years as burning children.

But nobody bothered to find anything for the fucking miners to do, and so the Yorkshire coalfield was converted from a fortress of working-class pride and wealth (it paid good money) to a smack ghetto without the benefit of a smelly and creative city around it.

Am I bitter? Of course I'm bitter. Would it have been better to keep the mines open? Ask a polar bear. Better, ask a Bangladeshi...one who didn't emigrate to Yorkshire to start a shop.

And I doubt how many people on the coalfield really wanted their sons to go in the pit. But the disaster, when they shut down - that didn't care. So, yes, bitter.

#116 ::: Cowboy Diva ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 06:35 PM:

re 103:
is that the hymn where one can meet saints on the train and at tea?

#117 ::: Pyre ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 06:42 PM:

Debra Doyle @86: Aha, no doubt the same alternate universe shown in Roar, where Julius Caesar's conquered Ireland (some thousand-and-a-half years before the English finally managed it in our world), and the rebel Irish -- dressed amazingly trendlily/"tribal" -- are waging a guerilla resistance with overtones of Robin Hood.


Xopher @95: I may be misunderstanding your math. For 38 symbols and an address consisting of seven of them, you say: "They then conclude that there are billions of combinations.... This is wrong. There are 38 combinations."

Assuming no symbol can be chosen twice, the number of possible addresses is 38 * 37 * 36 * 35 * 34 * 33 * 32 = 63,606,090,240. (64 billion, rounded.)

If symbols can be repeated, the number of possible addresses is 38^7 = 114,415,582,590. (114 billion, plus.)

If you think of the issue as the number of possible padlock combinations on a padlock containing only 30 numbers -- or the number of possible phone numbers that can be dialed using only ten digits -- the multiplicative power of combination is really quite striking.

#118 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 06:57 PM:

Pyre (117): Yes, but the last symbol *must* be where you're dialing from, so unless there are different versions of the stargates with different symbols*, one can only dial out from 38 planets.

*I could have sworn that there were, but I may have made that up to resolve the problem in my own mind.

#119 ::: JCarson ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 06:57 PM:

@Cowboy Diva - yes, indeed, saints can be found in lanes or at sea, as well. (Another Episcopalian alto here.)

@Pyre: there are indeed billions of combinations - but there can only be 38 planets, if each is to have its unique Point of Origin symbol. They could've done something clever with the first half being the address and the second half being point of origin, which would've limited their numbers to less than billions, but significantly more than 38. However, that destroys the whole plot of the movie. Oops.

Anyway, what kind of awesome space-time wormhole makes you tell it where you're coming from in order to dial? Shouldn't that be obvious, based on what Stargate is dialing?

#120 ::: mjfgates ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 07:24 PM:

The "last symbol is point of origin" constraint was added for use with the handheld version, which allowed any member of the ancient civilization to stargate from their mobile phone.

The people on the thousands of planets that were isolated by the new addressing scheme presumably don't mind, because if they did they could have stargated right over to complain, couldn't they?

Okay, must stop now, brain hurty.

#121 ::: Pyre ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 07:32 PM:

Re Stargate: It was also clearly established in the movie that not all the 38 symbols were planetary: Daniel realized from a newspaper picture of the Orion constellation that it matched one symbol, and various other symbols were also constellations (not planets).

This would seem to weigh in favor of the argument that the "Point Of Origin" symbol is singular, leaving 37 non-planetary (constellation?) symbols for "coördinate" address dialing.

Not to mention that a dial which had the symbol for the actual world you wanted on it should allow you to get there by pressing that one symbol, without the bother of pressing six others too.

#122 ::: Nix ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 07:46 PM:

Nicole TWN@#105, the story you're looking for is James Stoddard's _The Battle of York_, anthologized in YBSF10. Utterly hilarious

#123 ::: Pyre ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 08:01 PM:

Okay, here we go, from the Staregate SG-1 Visual Guide. There are actually 39 symbols on the Stargate. #1 is the "home" symbol, which on Earth's gate is the Å-like symbol you see in the show title and team badge. The other 38 are indeed ccnstellations, not planets:
# 2: Crater
# 3: Virgo
# 4: Boötes
# 5: Centaurus
# 6: Libra
# 7: Serpens Caput
# 8: Norma
# 9: Scorpio
#10: Cra
#11: Scutum
#12: Sagittarius
#13: Aquila
#14: Mic
#15: Capricorn
#16: Pisces Austrinus
#17: Equuleus
#18: Aquarius
#19: Pegasus
#20: Sculptor
#21: Pisces
#22: Andromeda
#23: Triangulum
#24: Aries
#25: Perseus
#26: Cetus
#27: Taurus
#28: Auriga
#29: Eridanus
#30: Orion
#31: Canis Minor
#32: Monoceros
#33: Gemini
#34: Hydra
#35: Lynx
#36: Cancer
#37: Sextans
#38: Leo Minor
#39: Leo

Constellations are, of course, star-patterns as seen from Earth. This choice of a "0,0,0" center for an interstellar network eventually makes sense because the Ancient culture which originally built the Gates came from Earth long ago and seeded all these other worlds.

#124 ::: Pyre ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 08:23 PM:

JCarson @119: Anyway, what kind of awesome space-time wormhole makes you tell it where you're coming from in order to dial? Shouldn't that be obvious, based on what Stargate is dialing?

It turns out that this particular kind of awesome space-time wormhole uses seven-digit addresses for within-galaxy transportation, and eight-digit addresses for long-distance dialing, such as going to another galaxy, for instance Atlantis in the Pegasus Galaxy.

So pressing the "home" symbol amounts to hitting an "I'm done" key, like pressing the "#" on your telephone keypad after entering an account number at your bank's automated line, so the system doesn't keep waiting for you to enter another number.

#125 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 08:47 PM:

Lois Fundis: Boilers explode.

nerdycellist... Anglo Catholic, very high church... St. Mary of the Angels? Hermn.... from subsequent comment perhaps not.

Scott Taylor: My 16 at basic was made in 1972. It had the upper replaced at least once. (I did basic in 1993). It didn't like blanks, and did a three round burst (impressive for a weapon with full auto and semi as the choices) when I was qualifying. Not so much fun.

We had one go off when the safety was applied in Iraq (the soldier was clearing it prior to re-entering the post. Place the muzzle in the clearing barrel, put the weapon on safe, drop the mag, clear the chamber; observe the chamber, close the chamber, drop the hammer. He got to "place the weapon on safe," and a rude surprise was had by all).

It's not a terrible design, but it is hideously flawed (the dumping of gasses directly into the chamber is just a bad idea). If you are thinking of gettig one, see about getting some form of the C7 (the Canadian Army version) which has a piston, rather than a gas-return tube, to fling the bold assembly back.

The Marlin was a modern rifle, the ammo was loaded out to max-spec. From here on out with it, barring a bear, cape buffalo or rampaging Mack truck, I'll stick with factory.

#126 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 09:03 PM:

They establish in the movie that Earth's POO symbol is the one-sun pyramid, and that the other planet's is the three-sun pyramid.

And whatever they say on official sites, in the series they clearly established that all the gates are the same. However they've tried to retcon it since, there are only 38 possible planets.

And btw when you're dialing with a DHD it knows when you're done because you press the big red button, so the POO isn't needed as a STOP code.

#127 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 09:27 PM:

Xopher said "poo"!

#128 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 10:00 PM:

#105 - Letter from a Higher Critic - with the intent implied by the title - that higher criticism proves too much. Most often seen in Best of (Astounding)Analog 6.

As an intellectual exercise Poul Anderson did an alt history story in which the last copy of the Christian Bible is so much waste paper and how from a point of departure to arrive there.

#129 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 10:11 PM:

Prior: We are beacons on the road to enlightenment.
Cameron Mitchell: No, you're dark-side intergalactic encyclopedia salesmen. Unfortunately, the home office hasn't been quite upfront with you.
Dr. Daniel Jackson, Ph.D.: Nice work on the metaphor.
Cameron Mitchell: Thank you.

#130 ::: Pyre ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 10:47 PM:

Xopher @126: Except that, as far back as the movie, it was already established that at least many symbols represented constellations, not planets, so there can't have been "38 planets" on the dial. Orion, remember?

The Stargate Visual Companion is a book, not a website. ISBN 0-7566-2361-8. It has photos of the TV set and props, including the Stargate and its glyphs, numbered and named. Orion's on there, just the way Daniel explained it in the movie. The whole æsthetic looks just the same. I haven't gone back to do a glyph-by-glyph comparison, but if you think they might've revamped the whole design, I'll look.

#131 ::: Pyre ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 11:04 PM:

Let me add, as to whether the glyphs are credibly supposed to be the stated constellations:

Orion's glyph, as Daniel explains, looks like a simplified sketch of the constellation itself, shoulders, belt, and knees.

Triangulum's glyph is an isoceles triangle.

Gemini's glyph looks very much like the Roman numeral II, which is also its symbol in astrology.

Et (as the King of Siam would relish saying) cetera.

#132 ::: nerdycellist ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 11:06 PM:

Terry @ 125 -

St Mary of the Angels? Are these the papist splitters? Perish the thought! (said with gentle, loving humor of course...)

I'm currently singing at St. Thomas in Hollywood, where I'm frantically preparing to sing a counter-tenor solo next weekend, the alto parts of the quartet in the Haydn St. Nicolas mass for Xmas and all the usual ensemble parts in the anthems and lessons & carols. I've been there about a year and I've never heard the hymn with the saint being eaten by a great wild beast (or meeting them at tea or in the lanes at sea...) I think I may start agitating for it; it sounds delightful.

#133 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 11:21 PM:

nerdycellist: Yes, that's them. Nice people, actually, even if they are schismatics of a singular stripe. Very nice choir.

#134 ::: Pyre ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 11:33 PM:

On the Visual Guide's DHD photos and diagrams, there is only one Point-Of-Origin key, the remainder being the constellation keys.

The glyph designs roughly correspond to those on the gate.

"Dialing seven symbols chosen from a pool of 38 non-repeating candidates results in about 63 billion possible stargate addresses."

One oddity: only 38 symbols on the DHD, compared to 39 on the gate ring.

Aquila, the Eagle, glyph #13 on the ring, is missing on the DHD!

Who knew the Ancients were superstitious?

#135 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: December 05, 2008, 11:51 PM:

Clark, #128: Would you happen to remember the title of that story? I'd like to read it.

#137 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2008, 12:59 AM:

Pyre @136 (& anyone interested), yes, there's some remarks on Open thread 116 starting @583.

This may very well spawn its own entry & comments.

#138 ::: Cradle Episcopalian - Margaret Organ-Kean ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2008, 11:01 AM:

The song with all the saints -

I Sing a Song of the Saints of God
lyrics by Lesbia Scott

You can hear the music Episcopalians grew up with here (not work safe - makes a lot of noise)-

http://www.hymnsite.com/lyrics/umh712.sht

#139 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2008, 11:31 AM:

#81 Ajay: ...I think he'd need some verified miracles to qualify for canonisation.

Therefore, we should start praying to Bugs Moran for intercession.

#140 ::: Pyre ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2008, 11:53 AM:

James D. Macdonald @139:

Therefore, we should start praying to Bugs Moran for intercession vigorish a piece of the action.

obMobster and obStarTrek!

#141 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2008, 01:29 PM:

Margaret (Cradle Episcopalian) @138, the hymnist was baptised Lesbia Lesley Locket. It's a wonder she wasn't intimately involved with Superman. The name seems to have fallen from favour; perhaps it was in the tradition of Florence Nightingale – Italian city, Greek island?

I knew a family where a male Leslie married a female Lesley; their son was Leslie, but their daughter wasn't Lesley, alas.

#142 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2008, 02:44 PM:

If you pray to Bugs Moran for a piece of the action, and you subsequently, miraculously, get a piece of the action, make sure you tell the Holy See about it.

#143 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2008, 03:16 PM:

Jim @ 142... get a piece of the action

"The odds of getting a royal fizzbin are astronomical. Spock, what are the odds of getting a royal fizzbin?"
"I have never computed them."

#144 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2008, 05:00 PM:

Teresa @85, responding to Janet @66:

The upcoming Martin Luther King Day is January 19, 2009. The new president will be inaugurated on the 20th.

I like the symbolism, which of course was not intended or thought of when the legislation was passed that designates the third Monday in January, rather than Dr. King's actual birthday, as the holiday in his honor.

#145 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2008, 09:38 PM:

Serge:

Let's not forget the Time Tunnel. I think one episode had Tony & Doug run into Robin Hood, and another had them deal with the Round Table, if I remember correctly.

This brings to mind one of the few times I've used Wikipedia. I was trying to find the weight of a Tardis (bear with me), which according to Wikipedia is "5 × 106 kilograms (5000 tonnes)" This is apparently the weight on the outside, not the inside, unless the various entities that have picked it up and carried it are a lot stronger than they looked.

I was trying to find the external TARDIS weight from the outside for a thought experiment. If I have it correct there are indications that one and possibly two Doctors were on the Titanic---leaving out the time the Titanic rammed the TARDIS, which doesn't really count. (I wonder what the two of them made of Scrooge McDuck, who was on the ship as well--I don't remember how he survived.) I thought that the combined weight of Tony, Doug, possibly Tony1 and Doug1 (depending on the last 30 seconds of the last episode of "Time Tunnel" as broadcast by ABC), Phineas Bogg, Jeffrey Jones, six dwarfs and Kevin all arriving on the same side at the same time wouldn't be enough to make the ship lurch into an iceberg so I was wondering if at least two Doctors and two different TARDISes would give enough mass to do it. Since then I've been told that one of the Doctors may have taken the voyage without his TARDIS, which makes the numbers even screwier than trying to deal with the number of closed loop Tony x N and Doug x n that might be created until the Tunnel's reactor burned out, so I said the hell with it.

This sort of question is why Phil Foglio hasn't done any more Rogers Park stories. I told him of a Usenet newsgroup where someone had been very excited that Park was shown in a Buck Godot story and he said "Plotting time travel stories makes your brain hurt." Which is why I was so startled with the apparent time travel in Girl Genius, but by then I'd decided to sit down and sing the last verse of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 theme...

#146 ::: Pyre ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2008, 11:27 PM:

Bruce E. Durocher II @145: According to the final scene of The Five Doctors, multiple instantiations of the Tardis can appear in the same place and time, in which case they appear to merely coincide (entirely overlap).

I'm not sure the mass/weight would be additive in that event. From the outside, to all appearances, there is only one Tardis there and then -- and that might well include "to such instruments as massometers and weight scales".

#147 ::: Pyre ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2008, 11:32 PM:

P.S. I think you'll want to encode that weight as "5 x 10^6 kg", or "5E6 kg". The [sup] tag doesn't work here.

#148 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2008, 11:53 PM:

Pyre:

Thanks for the correction on the weight--I just cut and pasted the figure from Wikipedia, and didn't think any more about it. So, if I understand you correctly, we're probably dealing with one object whose apparent mass is something that can be picked up and carried by a group--even though it's actual mass is much larger than that--rather than two? O.K...

#149 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2008, 09:14 AM:

I thought that the combined weight of Tony, Doug, possibly Tony1 and Doug1 (depending on the last 30 seconds of the last episode of "Time Tunnel" as broadcast by ABC), Phineas Bogg, Jeffrey Jones, six dwarfs and Kevin all arriving on the same side at the same time wouldn't be enough to make the ship lurch into an iceberg so I was wondering if at least two Doctors and two different TARDISes would give enough mass to do it.

Don't forget the time travelers from the Jack Finney novel.

#150 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2008, 09:33 AM:

Bruce Durocher @ 145... Carrie S @ 149... Tony, Doug, possibly Tony1 and Doug1 (...), Phineas Bogg, Jeffrey Jones, six dwarfs and Kevin (...) Jack Finney

And Time Tunnel showed that the Titanic's Captain really was Klaatu.

#151 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2008, 02:04 PM:

145: YASID: isn't there a time travel story in which time travel is almost completely safe - there's only a miniscule (one in several million) chance of the iridium core in your time machine's motor blowing up incredibly violently during operation.

So when billions of time travellers turn up on the same day 65 million years ago, to find out what really killed off the dinosaurs, a chain reaction starts...

#152 ::: oliviacw ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2008, 05:03 PM:

Just wanted to note (another cradle Episcopalian here, though non-practicing at the moment) that the poor saint was not, according to the song, "eaten" by a fierce wild beast, merely "slain" by one. However, it's quite possible that after slaying a saint, any normal fierce wild beast would also eat it, so the point may be moot.

Note also that people sometimes accidentally (or not so accidentally) sing "slain by a fierce wild priest" which spurs a completely different set of visuals.

#153 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2008, 06:39 PM:

Oliviacw #52:

Not any kind of Episcopalian, but we went to Compline last night, and there was a prayer toward the end that, among the usual bits of comfort the sick, help the needy, and so forth, also had "shield the joyful". Is that a standard prayer/trope, or just part of yesterday's liturgy? In any case, it's a wonderful thought; I've never heard of anyone considering the joyful as an at-risk category--and yet we are. All the time.

#154 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2008, 06:57 PM:

Vicki writes in #144:

The upcoming Martin Luther King Day is January 19, 2009. The new president will be inaugurated on the 20th.

I like the symbolism, which of course was not intended or thought of when the legislation was passed that designates the third Monday in January, rather than Dr. King's actual birthday, as the holiday in his honor.

The third Monday of January fell on the 20th in 1997. This will happen again in 2025.

The obvious question is, did Bill Clinton namecheck King in his Second Inagural? Yes, he did:

Thirty-four years ago, the man whose life we celebrate today spoke to us down there, at the other end of this Mall, in words that moved the conscience of a nation. Like a prophet of old, he told of his dream that one day America would rise up and treat all its citizens as equals before the law and in the heart. Martin Luther King’s dream was the American Dream. His quest is our quest: the ceaseless striving to live out our true creed. Our history has been built on such dreams and labors. And by our dreams and labors we will redeem the promise of America in the 21st century. To that effort I pledge all my strength and every power of my office.

(Rev. King was actually born on 15 January 1929.)

#155 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2008, 07:16 PM:

Re shielding the joyful: this was said by a friend of mine, just today, in a recap of the weekend.

- repeat after me, kids "I will appreciate the good fortune of others." These are rough times for everyone. When someone shares their happiness with you, be thankful, not resentful.

#156 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2008, 07:47 PM:

I am planning to take January 20th, 2009 off from work as my own personal national holiday. I may even drink beer, and wear a funny hat, to celebrate. Woo-hoo!

#157 ::: Chris Quinones ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2008, 08:37 PM:

Bill Higgins, 154: Jan. 20 was also a Monday in 2003, and will be in 2014 and 2020. None of these days coincide with US presidential inaugurations (if nothing changes between now and then), of course; my inner pedant wouldn't leave the intervening dates unmentioned, regardless.

#158 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: December 08, 2008, 09:08 PM:

Bruce @148 --

5,000 tonnes is one of these. (Well, ok, technically, one of those 230 tonnes lighter than that.)

Not pick-up-and-carry-able without really serious ground pressure issues, even by a whole lot of people.

Though given that the TARDIS does not sink into the pavement, I suspect this value is variable at need.

#159 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2008, 02:48 AM:

Coming to the thread a bit late:

My home town, which owes its existence to mining, doesn't seem to be worried about Saint Barbara being ahistorical. The annual Saint Barbara's Festival (held for the tenth time this year) postdates her eviction from the official calendar by quite a bit, as does Saint Barbara's square in the centre of town (created in a bit of urban redevelopment when I was a lad). Likewise, obviously, the statue in the square, which was unveiled at the first of the Festivals.

An interesting thing about the statue is that neither the thing itself nor the explanatory inscription make any reference to the tower or the lightning. The summary of her story in the inscription focusses on how she was sheltered in a cave by miners before being ratted out by a shepherd (a nice moment of contemporary topicality there: miners and pastoralists still don't get on). The statue depicts a young woman holding a cup, standing in a cleft between two rocks (the young woman and the cup are made of metal, but the rocks are made of rock). I think they were trying to avoid confusing people about what Saint Barbara has to do with mining, but if so they didn't entirely succeed; before I came across one of the longer accounts of Barbara's life that includes both the tower and the lightning and the mine and the shepherd, I was seriously wondering if there were two Saint Barbaras and they'd somehow commissioned a statue in honour of the wrong one.

#160 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2008, 02:53 AM:

Ken MacLeod @ #51: Come to think of it, that book's also where I first learned that the Asteroid Belt is the debris of a blown-up planet

It may have changed back sometime when I wasn't looking, but I think these days the Planet That Became The Asteroid Belt is, like Saint Barbara, officially considered to be ahistorical. (But it does make a good story.)

#161 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2008, 03:00 AM:

Debra Doyle @ #86:

Shakespearean Italy (along with Shakespearean Bohemia, etc.) is clearly in an alternate universe where past reality is sometimes subtly and sometimes radically different from the one we think we know; the question is only whether it's the same alternate universe as Hollywood History, or yet a different one.

Poul Anderson (as I expect you know) wrote a novel set in that universe, but he didn't address the question specifically, and I don't recall any conclusive hints.

#162 ::: Nancy C. Mittens ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2008, 03:41 PM:

My mom's theory, applied to St. Christopher, who is also de-sainted by the RCC, is that someone has been handling those prayers, so why not keep praying them!

#163 ::: Scott Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2008, 04:41 PM:

Terry @ 125 - (missed this the first time round)
Scott Taylor: My 16 at basic was made in 1972. It had the upper replaced at least once. (I did basic in 1993). It didn't like blanks, and did a three round burst (impressive for a weapon with full auto and semi as the choices) when I was qualifying. Not so much fun.

I can't recall when mine was made, at this point - I did BT in '87, so....

We had one go off when the safety was applied in Iraq (the soldier was clearing it prior to re-entering the post. Place the muzzle in the clearing barrel, put the weapon on safe, drop the mag, clear the chamber; observe the chamber, close the chamber, drop the hammer. He got to "place the weapon on safe," and a rude surprise was had by all).

Yikes. That's when you very carefully remove the mag, clear the chamber, take the upper off of the lower, and hand both sections to the unit armorer with a "I don't like this one. And it doesn't like anyone either. It's got the death sentence in twelve provinces. And I'll be dead...."

...after you get done with the shakes.

It's not a terrible design, but it is hideously flawed (the dumping of gasses directly into the chamber is just a bad idea). If you are thinking of getting one, see about getting some form of the C7 (the Canadian Army version) which has a piston, rather than a gas-return tube, to fling the bold assembly back.

The "don't shit where you eat" thing is kinda annoying. Unfortunately, the gas piston uppers I've seen have all been really, really expensive (two and a half to three times the cost of a standard 20" HBAR upper of similar quality), and the only conversion kit I've seen is in the $400 dollar range. I've got it on the "if I see one at a semi-reasonable price, I'll get it" list, but I'm not holding my breath.

(I've got an AR-15 - a DPMS Panther with a 16" HBAR upper with mid-length gas block. I was holding a 20" flattop HBAR upper (free-floating) on Saturday that I nearly bought - but five hundred (plus forward sight and carry handle, for CMP - another hundred-fifty or so)was more than I can justify right atm).

The Marlin was a modern rifle, the ammo was loaded out to max-spec. From here on out with it, barring a bear, cape buffalo or rampaging Mack truck, I'll stick with factory.

(nods)

#164 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: December 10, 2008, 08:50 PM:

Ken MacLeod @ #51
"Come to think of it, that book's also where I first learned that the Asteroid Belt is the debris of a blown-up planet - hey, I still get the chills thinking of that asteroid the space cadets come across with strata of sedimentary rock."

Pre: Paul A. @ #160
It may have changed back sometime when I wasn't looking, but I think these days the Planet That Became The Asteroid Belt is, like Saint Barbara, officially considered to be ahistorical. (But it does make a good story.)

You want a good story, consider BD +20 307.* Two Earth-sized planets, habitable-zone orbits, a few billion years old, and both now a 100 degrees Kelvin ring of dust because they collided with each other sometime in the past 100,000 years. Death of a planet seen in a PPT chart.** Their sedimentary layers could've had fossils, but I really hope not.

---------------

* technically BD +20 307b and BD +20 307c, or however one labels an ex-planet.

** although when that PPT was made they didn't yet know how very old the star was. Bit of a story in how they learned about that.

#165 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2008, 12:07 AM:

Graydon:

Not pick-up-and-carry-able without really serious ground pressure issues, even by a whole lot of people.

Though given that the TARDIS does not sink into the pavement, I suspect this value is variable at need.

Thanks for the good visual reference! To quote Wikipedia on their 5000 Tonne TARDIS weight figure: "This presumably refers to its internal weight, as the external part of the TARDIS is light enough for it to be lifted or otherwise moved with relative ease (although most real police boxes were concrete and hence quite difficult to move): several men lift it up in Marco Polo, a group of small blue maintenance workers on Platform One push it along the ground in "The End of the World", and a quartet of Weeping Angels are able to rock it back and forth in "Blink", to name a few. If the exterior of the TARDIS is moved, the movement is transmitted to its interior." So, as I said, either the guys in Marco Polo are much stronger than they looked or the TARDIS is much heavier on the inside than on the outside.

#166 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2008, 02:22 AM:

Bruce E. Durocher II @165: Also this season, it was sold and moved to the house of Lucius Caecilius Iucundus. Presumedly only took a couple of people to cart it.

I always assumed that the Tardis exterior was a shell, projected into 4D space from where the Tardis interior resided. Probably, anchored to the black hole at the center of the galaxy by Rassilon.

#167 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: December 11, 2008, 10:38 PM:

Scott: As the armorer (hence my more than normal attachent to Sta. Barbara than a non-explosives type grunt) looking at it was my job. (someday remind me to tell the story of the worn sear on the firing line).

I took that thing down as far as I was allowed, looked it over something fierce. Went after it with a badger shaving brush. Reassembled it, did my best to make it malfunction again.

It steadfastly refused. "x" it, took it to the commander and told him to circle the x, issued it back out. Then I had to write up the report, assinging the misfire to a, "non-repeatable, non-replicable condition." McKinnon had to write up the incident, and the CO had to sign off on the expended round.

Oi... what a day.

My CMPish arm is an M1A1S (the short barrelled M-14, based on the "tanker Garand". An unexpectedly large TDY payment was found money, so the 1,100 was affordable.

And I like the platform, so getting it was worth it to me.

#168 ::: Another Damned Medievalist ::: (view all by) ::: December 14, 2008, 05:49 PM:

Huh. So that means that St. Barbara is not only the saint most closely connected to my hometown and undergrad institution, but also the most likely candidate for patron saint of my chosen football club...

What a very weird coincidence!

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