State of the Russ Address, Dec. 2006

In four hours, the Bunny and I will be at an airport enroute to Hungary for Christmas, hopefully to wipe most of this fall’s discontent away with old friends not seen in a while.

  1. This fall and this year has seen a lot more sickness and death than we usually see around here, in both the kith and the kin, the (way too goddamn-)young and the old.  I handle death very well in the immediate, and poorly in the long-term;  I’m precisely unlike the old monk in A Canticle for Leibowitz, who is “like mercury.  I splatter, but somehow I always run back together.”  No, I’m the guy who’s like wood, and gets brittle, and this year is has really shown.
  2. I finally go to the levee to pull some arrows and shoot at a reasonable distance.  There is a feeling involved with instinctive shooting that you simply don’t get using three-point western archery.  (And you the latter is more accurate, but you can’t do it from horseback.)
  3. On that front, I took a short break from savate due to the combination of starting to burn out, and the commute involved not letting me do any of the other things that make me who I am without neglecting my wife (who felt the weight of me being gone an extra night of the week) …  some of them things that make me very happy, had simply sat to the side mouldering for lack of hours in the week.  Some people like to talk about it, but I know what I’d be doing if I hit the lottery.
  4. My third article in “the trilogy” is being looked at both by Clifford Rogers at JMMH, and by a friend of my Dad’s who has friends elsewhere in the field.  My hope with these three articles is to exert just enough weight in my field that sachkritik becomes de rigeur in research, and to promote the use of experimental archaeology and the “worm’s-eye-view” of raw, detailed physical realities to solve historical problems where the written sources tend to disagree.  Yeah, I’m arrogant that way, but I’m already starting to pop up in footnotes, and article two, which takes the “fish slapping dance” to most of the big names of the field, is going to make a splash.  The third takes aim at two generically cherished notions in the field, and both will likely draw fire from folks who are far more learned than me (or more specialized, which in this case amounts to the same thing), but in that process influence the discussion.
  5. On that front, my friend Csaba needs to get published, preferably in English, for the sake of his career, and he is running dead into ideological opposition at home.  So I may wind up working on a full-length manuscript faster than I intend to.
  6. The novel is yet another one of the many things that was supposed to get finished this fall, and hasn’t been.  I’ve got somewhere between two and three chapters left to write, and will either take it to Baen, or else self-publish (which has gotten a lot more respectable over the past couple of years as technology makes its impact, with a number of very good authors taking this route).
  7. Made sling bullets for James Baird this Christmas.  I should be able to start actually making them more uniform in mass once it’s determined what the best “standard” size is for the type of slings we use (which are leather, and longer in the arm than most woven slings).
  8. Other random things waiting in the wings to be written:  messerfechten with Grzegorz Zabinski, and two different martial arts books with Kevin.  And either a sequel to said novel (which flows obviously and organically from the first), or two others, including a romantic comedy idea that makes The Graduate look tame and sane by comparison.  Clearly I need to invest in those drugs that let you skip sleep for half the week.
  9. Terra Preta experiment is kind of stuck due to the need for powdered charcoal in bulk.  Anybody know of a supplier?  The activated stuff is too expensive and probably a bad experimental source.
  10. I’m teaching seven sections next semester, in three different counties.  And have been accepted at UTA for the additional coursework I will need long-term to escape the accreditation demons.  Suffice it to say, the gamble paid off, and I’m now fully-employed as a history lecturer.
  11. Picked up a new .45, since I can’t even think of doing El Presidente races with my Llama, which is safe to shoot, but mechanically faulty.  It’s a Taurus Millenium, which is a nice carry pistol with a small magazine but an equally small footprint (it’s not much bigger than a .380), and a grip that suits my hands.
  12. I and Jim Braith are now officially Johnny Redwood-seed, and his land should be absolutely perfect for starting a redwood grove in the Oachitas.  I’ve got big hopes in that direction.
  13. The side business making parchment is ready to go pending the first customer’s bulk order.  He did a nice illumination on the samples I provided him, and is hot to go.  Once that starts rolling, word of mouth should do the rest, as I can provide reasonable parchment at *much* less than the main commercial supplier charges.
  14. Squirmybutt McPoopytail is officially the property of Ms. Autumn Jackson, though he’s still here for a couple days snarfing and curling up in peoples’ laps.  So I guess I don’t have to turn him into gloves after all.

As usual, I’m sure there’s something else, but it doesn’t spring to mind at the moment.  Merry Christmas, y’all, and see you next year.

Leave a comment


  1. I have a pdf of Little C’s hopes for his school’s Medieval Days. Will email it tonight


  2. Russ, you’re making it awfully hard on our self-esteems here. Slow down a little; watch some TV….

  3. Maddie

     /  December 18, 2006

    Ok, well I’m impressed. I need to make a note to myself about learning to multi-task…
    Aside from all of the ass-kicking that you’re doing professionally, I’m really happy to hear that your book is almost done (i want to know what happens, dammit!). Before you decide where and how to publish, I would love to talk about it with you (8 years bookselling does have its benefits:-)

  4. blackpine

     /  December 19, 2006

    I’d like to read those books if you wouldn’t mind. My knowledge of Crecy is piddling at best. where can I get ahold of your paper?

  5. Alex Morgan

     /  December 19, 2006


    I think you know me, but let me reintroduce myself. I’m Alex – VMI co-urinal user and keydidiot colleague of Jim, Andy, and Eason. I think the only time we’ve ever met was in May 1994 at graduation from the Virginia Mental Institute.

    Thanks to Andy introducing me to this – I read a bit of your blog (not something I normally do) and your scientific experiments interest me. Especially so since I have a Ph.D. in chemistry but am beginning to act more and more like a 19th century scientist – fooling around with a bit of every field. Further, I’m actually an expert on fire science and the combustion of solid materials (wood, plastic, concrete, etc.) and I think I might be able to help you with your charcoal selection. Of course I’ll need to discuss with you further what exactly the Terra Preta experiment is (I have not read the book you cite) and what it is you’re looking for in a charcoal source. Activated carbon/charcoal is not the same as charcoal used for fuel which is not the same as many other myriad carbon sources out there. Once I know what it is you really need, I can suggest a source, or better yet, tell you how to make it yourself.

    You can reach me at my yahoo address or my work email (alexander.morgan at


    Alex Morgan

  6. Alex Morgan

     /  December 19, 2006

    So I read about Terra Preta on Wikipedia and in light of your background in experimental anthropology (something that I have encountered peripherally in the Chemistry field) I think I know what you’re trying to do. In that case you are correct that activated carbon/charcoal is indeed the wrong type of material.

    For me to help you I’ll need to know the details of youre experiment, and whether or not you’re trying to mimic slash & burn agriculture or cooking fires. Heats from both create different types of carbon ash – which may not be charcoal per se.


  7. Yea, Russ, I know what you mean. Just yesterday, while performing brain surgery, inventing cold fusion and solving world hunger, I started to think about putting off re-writing the Encyclopedia Brittanica until I finished mapping out the Human Genome and complete my Symphony Metallica…….

    sheesh man. I need to introduce you to “decafe.”

  8. Boy, howdy, that’s a lot of projects.

  9. “As usual, I’m sure there’s something else, but it doesn’t spring to mind at the moment.”

    – Goodness, man, isn’t that enough!!! It certainly sounds like you have had a very busy and highly successful year.

  10. Russ

     /  December 21, 2006

    What? Come on, you bastards, you know you’re busy, too!


    (The Bunny is reading over my shoulder here at “Grandma’s” Internet Crepe Cafe, and laughing her ass off. She says I was born into the wrong century).

    Alex, the assumption I”m working under (and thank you for the offer) is that the archaeologists think that these were mouldering rubbish fires, not cook-fires per se.

    (Yeah, Coffeespaz, I didn’t list finishing up the Cuman military equipment or the leather shop that’s been mouldering in my office all year long while I’ve had no time to touch them. Ever walk past 3 grand in leatherworking tools and materials every day w/o the time to so much as touch them except how you touch an ex-lover in public?)

  11. Alex Morgan

     /  December 21, 2006

    mouldering rubbish fires or smoldering? One suggest decay, the other suggests low oxygen combustion conditions which can lead to charcoal-like structures. I think you mean smoldering though.

    So let me suggest something else that maybe you have already thought about. I’m assuming that these experiments are related to your professorship and path to tenure, yes? If so – want to make an attempt at writing a proposal to NSF for this work? This way you can get PAID to do the work you find interesting. Throw in carbon dating, analysis of carbonaceous structures to determine fire source (rubbish pile, slash & burn, cooking, funeral pyres, etc.), and your experimental archeaology (data/analysis proposed this, now we attempt to reproduce the events and see if the newly produced Terra Preta matches the original).

    Writing proposals for funding is very much in my day to day activity. In my current job it is what keeps me employed as all of my salary comes from research projects and contracts. I get no support from the Univeristy until I decide to start teaching, which I’m not 100% sure I’m ready to do yet.

    Let me know if this would be of interest to you.

  12. Russ

     /  December 21, 2006

    Sorry, Alex, but now you’re going too professional for me. I’m NOT a Meso-American archaeologist, and have never gotten paid for any of this (And there are no PhDs in America what I really want to do on that score, unfortunately…). Though I *do* have various projects for which grant-writing advice would be handy, I’m (unfortunately) not enrolled in the doctoral program which would be a pre-requisite for the majority of them I know. (Used to drive the Lizard Queen crazy: she’d say ‘how bout this one?’ ‘don’t qualify.’ ‘this one?’ ‘don’t qualify….’)

  13. Russ

     /  December 21, 2006

    And I appreciate the offer, too…

  14. Alex Morgan

     /  December 21, 2006

    This proposal doesn’t have to support a Ph.D. thesis student – there are different pots of money open only to 4-year colleges rather than full-blown universities. Sometimes supporting a masters thesis or even a BA honors thesis can get one funding.

    You might qualify for more than you think you do. ESPECIALLY if you’re willing to work with people from more than one University. And then there is foundation money….a whole other issue where many of the rules go right out the window.

  15. 🙂 No, but I can commiserate with you. I have roughly the equivalent in music equipment sitting my loft with no time to break any of the instruments out and practice. Luckily we have no neighbors right now to scare away, so I should probably make some time! 🙂

  16. blackpine

     /  December 21, 2006

    This… grant writing of which you speak. These honey pots as you call them. I am interested and wish to know more.

    Would you favor us with a discussion on grant writing and grant writers?

  17. Mike

     /  December 22, 2006

    Free money for the masses, just go to school and improve yourself. What a great country we live in!

  18. Mike

     /  December 22, 2006

    Speaking of writing…

    Grad student now am I, many papers write me. Said works creative writing club you have qualify do? Even discuss though they boom things that go do? In sense things historical?

  19. Alex Morgan

     /  December 22, 2006

    Yes – I would be glad to discuss grant writing, foundation money vs. govt. agency funding, and other topics.
    And as for cryptic writing for works creative – sweet zombie jesus yes I can help you on that. Especially since history paper writing and scientific paper writing have some key similarities when it comes to research quality. I’m writing a book chapter over the holidays (no time to write at work) so this is fresh in my mind.
    This discussion though may need to be posted elsewhere. I am considering such a vehicle, but you know how to contact me otherwise so I can begin it there.

  20. Alex Morgan

     /  December 22, 2006

    Your grad. student writing style, Mike, reminds me of how my better half described my Ph.D. defense if I froze up during the defense:

    “Fire. Airplanes. Bad. Thank you.”

  21. blackpine

     /  December 22, 2006


  22. Mike

     /  December 22, 2006

    Actually Alex, I was referring to the club that Russ and friends have. But any feedback you have is more than welcome. Once I actually post my papers. FIrst one (real one, I had Critique of Caesar’s Commentaries that was described as “not bad, but didn’t cover a key aspect (Caesar’s Political Aspirations)” but then got massively better with the discussion it spawned) due next week. If all goes well, mayhaps post it will I.

  23. Ooooh, grants — yes, by all means, a “How to” on getting grants from somebody who has gotten them before would be muy grande!

  24. Alex Morgan

     /  December 24, 2006

    Let me figure out a way to teach this, as this doesn’t seem to be right place to do it. I may have to start with a simple “how to guide” and email it to those interested.
    And it will get complicated by US system vs. Foreign. So Andy, most of what I may teach may not be relevant to you.


  25. blackpine

     /  December 25, 2006

    I’m looking for US. I want to do busines in Korea and Vietnam. If there are grants to assist, then that would make life a whole lot easier.

  26. Alex Morgan

     /  December 28, 2006

    You should probably look at Dept. of Commerce and Dept. of State for small business grants. Most of the ones I’m aware of are research oriented, not ones that enable business ventures, but should I see one I’ll let you know.
    I’m working on a guide while on vacation this week. Once it’s done I’ll send it to you and anyone else who is interested.

  27. Great stuff. Am also interested. I don’t know if history papers qualify for Polidori (is it fiction?), but for sure we can start ourself a little circle that way if it doesn’t qualify.

    Alex, I’m a community college teacher, adjunct, w/o any reasonable university connection. (Fortunately, the serious work has already been done, I’m just trying to do a proof-of-concept to widespread the idea).

    Will be back in town and MUCH better touch within four days…

  28. Alex Morgan

     /  December 28, 2006

    Proof of concept experiments can lead to University appointments or at least promotion to tenure-track within community colleges.

  29. Mike

     /  December 29, 2006

    Ah, no these papers wouldn’t be fiction. They would be historical analysis, so I guess I will just have to let you take a look on the side. In case you hadn’t heard, they are saying Saddam is going to swing in a matter of hours.

  30. Mike

     /  December 29, 2006

    WHOOOOO HOOOOO!!! Saddam’s dead!

  31. happycrow

     /  December 30, 2006

    Mike: I watched, a happy camper, and then successfully explained US foreign policy to my father-in-law. So two good things in one day…

    Alex: No such thing as tenure-track within community colleges here, but for certain it would look spiffy on a resume. In theory, actually, I’m lucky: the basic experimental data has already been published. What I’m trying to do if successful might help the Terra Preta folks get off the ground in using it as a tool against global warming and agricultural famine, etcetera.

    (And as you may have noticed, friend, I tend to think big. Don’t usually hit the target, but you gotta aim high if you’re going to hit anything but your feet.)

  32. Alex Morgan

     /  January 1, 2007


    Care to explain US foreign policy to me? I certainly don’t understand it in its current form unless the goal is to deliberately piss everyone off.

    As for the experimental work let’s talk about this some more. I’ll need to understand the hypothesis better to help you, as well as how you think this might help others explain global warming/agricultural famine. I could see explaining the latter, but not the former.

  33. No problem, I can run both. Drop me an email?


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