Link: Aristotle on Friendship

Cool article that caught my eye recently on friendship. Interesting how such relationships haven’t changed all that much over thousands of years.


‘Non Vi Sed Arte’ – What does it mean to me?

Beaty Coat of Arms
The Beaty Coat of Arms

“Non vi Sed Arte” is Latin for “Not by Strength, by Guile”. It is the motto on the “coat of arms” of Admiral of the Fleet David Richard Beatty, the first Earl Beatty (1884-1927). It was also used by a couple of different military units. For example it was the unofficial motto of the Long Range Desert Group, a reconnaissance and raiding unit of the British Army during WWII.

I always liked the saying. But my take on the slogan has changed as I have gotten older. When I was younger, not being the strongest of guys and having perhaps an excessive opinion of my intellect, I liked the idea of success due to mind over body. But as I grew older this “take” on the slogan not only grew to lose its appeal, but I began to feel a negative reaction to the slogan. Why be proud of a lack of strength or determination? And most dictionaries define guile as a treacherous cunning or skillful deceit. Did I really want to use that as some kind of guide or brag about my character? Continue reading ‘Non Vi Sed Arte’ – What does it mean to me?

Short Story: The Skeleton’s Story

tree-skeletonAnother writing exercise turned short story. This one was to somehow incorporate the Halloween-like concept described in a recent viral news item about a midieval skeleton found dangling from the roots of a fallen tree.

I’ve always been fascinated in Scottish and Irish history. Exploring the time period this Irish skeleton was believed to be from, I became interested in the Battle of Clontarf, a large battle that brought an end to the reign of Ireland’s first High King. Read the Short Story

Into the Jaws of Death – 6/6/1944

U.S. Army soldiers wade ashore on Omaha Beach as part of the Normandy landings of World War II.
U.S. Army soldiers wade ashore on Omaha Beach as part of the Normandy landings of World War II.

“We do not know or seek what our fate will be. We ask only this, that if die we must, that we die as men would die, without complaining, without pleading and safe in the feeling that we have done our best for what we believed was right.” — Lt. Col. Robert L. Wolverton, CO 3rd battalion, 506th PIR.

Memorial Day and such is all well and good. But sometimes we need to remember specific days, so that we don’t forget… So we don’t forget the tragic consequences of our human darkness, our imperfection and evil. And so we don’t forget our human light, the self-sacrifice and bravery of those who helped bring us out of the dark, becoming casualties in the process. Continue reading Into the Jaws of Death – 6/6/1944

Music: Beethoven’s Response to a Critic

Ludwig van Beethoven

Beethoven composed a short (15 minutes long) orchestral work called “Wellington’s Victory” or “The Battle of Vitoria” (Op. 91) in 1813. Wellington’s Victory is now often compared to another famous “battle piece”, namely Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture”, as both call for the use of a large “percussion battery” including muskets and artillery, and by opposite “sides” of the orchestra playing the national themes of the opposing armies.

Like a lot of Beethoven’s work it has been called a hodgepodge of styles and an “atrocious potboiler”. I of course love it! You can listen to it here (with full muskets and cannons, performed by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by the Herbert Von Karajan,) and judge for yourself.

The reason I bring it up is that I happened to discover a response by Beethoven to similar criticism to this piece that he was receiving in his day. Read on for Beethoven’s Surprising Response→

Horatius at the Bridge

History Lesson Part 2

As mentioned in my previous post Future History Lesson, a  passing quote in the science-fiction novel “Starship Troopers” by Robert Heinlein piqued my interest on two events in real history: ‘Horatius at the Bridge‘ and ‘The Death of the Bon Homme Richard‘. What I discovered in both cases I found so rich in story, that I had to explore them further. Below is what I discovered about Haratius. The surprising story of Bonhomme Richard can be found in Part 3 (coming soon).

Horatius at the Bridge

Publius Horatius Cocles and Two Companions Defend Tiber Bridge by Augustyn Mirys (mid 1700’s Polish painter)

When first digging I could not find a specific work with this title, but there was a lot of information to be found on the person and the event. I eventually discovered that “Horatius at the Bridge” was the title of some editions of the narrative poem Horatius by the Victorian Era historian Baron Thomas Abington Macaulay which was published in his book Lays of Ancient Rome in 1842. It was very popular in England at the time, memorized and recited avidly, and taught in schools. Even close to a hundred years later Winston Churchill recalled memorizing it. You can download a free public domain digital ebook of the entire Lays of Ancient Rome” via Project Gutenberg, available in multiple file formats. Continue reading Horatius at the Bridge

Future History Lesson

History Lesson Part 1:
Roman Soldiers & American Revolution Sailors as seen by Starship Troopers


Starship Troopers book cover
Starship Troopers book cover

I started readingStarship Troopers by Robert Heinlein today and it inspired me to investigate a little real history.

First, I’ve been a big fan of Heinlein for awhile, but strangely had never read this novel which many regard so highly. I had seen the crappy movie supposedly based on it, but let me say that movie really holds no similarities to the novel except for some characters’ and alien species’ names. Worse the movie turns some of the deeper but controversial aspects of the novel on their head, and turns the entire story into a farce. For example Heinlein’s novel portrays a democratic society in which suffrage is earned by a term of government service – in the case of the main characters this happened to be military service. The movie version portrays a fascist society where the only road to citizenship was through the military — kind of like non-citizen inhabitants of the early to mid Roman empire who could earn citizenship only after serving 25 years in the Roman legions.

I’m getting off the topic, which isn’t so much about the future the novel portrays, but about detailing some things I learned from a “future history lesson” today’s reading inspired me to take. Continue reading Future History Lesson

Now Reading 12/19/12

Now Reading

The Dispossessed
by Ursula K. le Guin
Progress: 5%

Odd Interlude #2
by Dean Koontz
Progress: 0%

I really liked the first part of this 3 part novella. My library hold for ebook version of part 2 just came available today.

Side Burner or Occasional Reading Snacks

A Scanner Darkly
by Philip K. Dick
Progress: 19%

The Mote in God's EyeThe Mote in God’s Eye
by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle
Progress: 43%

It Happened in Colorado
by James A. Crutchfield
Progress: 20%

On Hold For A While

The Mongoliad: Book One
by Neal Stephenson, Greg Bear, Mark Treppo, Nicole Galland, Erik Bear, Joseph Brassey, Cooper Moo
Progress: 24%