Monday, June 20, 2016

How Not to Build a Bow

Yesterday I attempted to build a bow. A foolish pastime, perhaps, for someone with no experience in the art of bowmaking (except for a stage-prop--a crossbow--I once made for a production of "Swan Lake"), but an amusing pastime all the same. Amusing, and, as it turned out, rather dangerous.
I found a stick of good length, perhaps four and a half or five feet, which I knew to be dry. Then I proceeded to bend it a little and whittle down the areas that seemed most resistant to bending. When I had cut away the worst spots, I strung the bow with a double length of tough string (a single strand, which I tried first, snapped). I actually braided another bowstring for extra strength, intending the other to be temporary. (It took me half an hour to braid it). Anyway, when I'd strung the bow I proceeded to the process which I have seen referred to as tillerring. That is, I placed the bow upside-down on a piece of wood and had someone else pull the string to bend it,then continued to whittle it down. You can find pictures of the process online.
Everything went pretty smoothly at first, the bow gradually grew more supple, so I decided to fire a couple arrows. I was overeager. The first shot was fine, especially considering that I could thus far only bring my bow to half draw. But on the second shot I applied a little more pressure, and--you guessed it--I had the bow in pieces about my ears. Figuratively, that is--fortunately. It snapped very violently, and I was lucky indeed not to get hit.
What went wrong? Probably I was simply too hasty and not careful enough. But my choice of wood may have played a role. My stick was made of Magnolia wood--I had nothing else available. I've never heard of a bow made of magnolia wood, and perhaps now I know the reason.

Friday, May 20, 2016


This evening, a rabbit ate a dandelion in our front yard.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

General Updates

      I've been taking the California Achiement Test today. Apparently the achievement level in California is not very high--but at least the test should ensure that high school graduates are able to reach a fourth-grade level in grammar.
        On to a more interesting subject. Yesterday I was in a grocery store, looking at the health food section. It was pretty boring, for the most part--rows of shelves and price tags. But under one package of spaghetti, instead of a price tag, there was a sign which read, "Rule of Thumb Section." Misplaced instructions to employees, perhaps? Or the pricing of the item is to be determined by rule of thumb. . . who knows.
        Well, on to a really interesting subject. I've been taking online literature courses from CenterForLit for a couple years now. Various courses are offered, all based on Socratic discussions of literary works which students are expected to read beforehand. Yesterday I took part in a class discussing selections from Geoffrey Chaucer's "The Canterbury Tales." I was required to read the General Prologue, the Pardoner's Tale, and the Nun's Priest's Tale, which I did in Middle English. I was surprised to find that written Middle English really isn't too different from modern English: most words are readily understandable. But it seems that the pronunciation was very different. I have tried to teach myself to pronounce it, but I'm not sure that I'm doing it correctly.
     I also saw a Scarlet Tanager today. I'm ashamed to admit that one of my sisters found it before I did, but it was still a gorgeous sight.
      Now for your daily dose of commentary on world events: Baghdad, it seems, is in trouble. The Islamic State has once again launched a wave of bombings, and the Iraqi Security Forces seem powerless to stop them. On the other, ISIS has lost considerable territory in Anbar in recent days. Iraqi forces have mad rapid advances. What we're seeing here is an inevitable shift in tactics from ISIS: as the Islamic State loses control of territory, it will morph, once again, into an insurgency using guerilla tactics. In this guise it is likely to be much more dangerous to civilians than before. Indeed, it is probably a mistake to think that weakening ISIS's ability to assert territorial control will inevitably weaken the threat it poses.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Good Article

I noticed an excellent article in USA Today's online opinion section: "Top Threat to Kurds is not ISIL."  To be sure, Adam Sulkowski is speaking only of Iraqi Kurdistan: in Syria the situation is somewhat different. And yet he is correct in noting that we typically focus only on the Peshmerga's success fighting ISIS. We neglect the fact that Iraqi Kurdistan has, at present, serious economic difficulties that threaten its viability as a military partner. What Sulkowski doesn't mention is that political divisions in Iraqi Kurdistan are just as damaging as its economy. In any case, if we would like te Kurds as a long-term ally, we will need to provide economic and politcal assistance (in the form of advisors, not money) in adddition to weapons.

Thursday, November 26, 2015


I have not written here for a long time, for many reasons--or, really, none at all, which amounts to more or less the same thing. Perhaps it would be a good idea, first, for me to post a few photographs of a recent trip to Washington, DC.

National Basilica and Shrine of the Immaculate Conception

I even met His Holiness there. 

The Air and Space Museum is pretty good. (X-15)

Me 262 

MC 205

Bf 109.

Robert E. Lee's house at Arlington National Cemetary.

Gerorge Washington's sword at the Museum of American History.


Our Lord sucking His thumb.

Wright Flyer.

By the way, it seems the SDf is advancing on Azaz. It's not clear whether that includes the YPG or just Jaysh al-Thuwar.