Jaybird is Birdmojo on Xbox Live and Jaybirdmojo on Playstation's network. He's been playing consoles since the Atari 2600 and it was Zork that taught him how to touch-type. If you've got a song for Wednesday, a commercial for Saturday, a recommendation for Tuesday, an essay for Monday, or, heck, just a handful a questions, fire off an email to

Related Post Roulette

16 Responses

  1. aaron david says:

    I took a semester of fencing in college, was OK at it but the early start time for the class killed me. Now, it would be no problem…

    Anyhow, reading reading Black Lamb, Grey Falcon in spurts, with 7eves to wind down the day. Oh, and the NEC

    • pillsy says:

      I hear you. Last thing I want to do early in the morning is mess around with chicken wire and pickets.

  2. Michael Cain says:

    Random remarks…

    I’m always interested in hearing stories about why people take a fencing class in college. For me, it was from reading Heinlein’s Glory Road as a teenager.

    The women’s events were the following day, so JB and Maribou didn’t get to hear any women. I’ve always thought the full-volume shriek of a 16-year-old female sabrist is much more impressive than males bellowing. Last year I went to a tournament held at the Arapahoe County Fair Grounds Event Center. It’s a lovely space with a high ceiling and the most amazing dead acoustics. No one was bothering with bellowing/shrieking because the sound didn’t reverberate or carry at all.

    “Smart” is an overkill description of electric scoring. Effective electric scoring in epee was developed in the 1920s and added to the rules in 1933. Resistors, capacitors, and a few vacuum tubes. When you read the epee rules on timing precision, it is clear that they are allowing for the standard tolerances in an RC timing circuit. Yeah, everything’s done by a microprocessor these days, but there’s more code concerned with interacting with the referee’s remote control and running the clock than there is with the actual scoring of a touch.

    The most interesting thing about electric scoring, which we didn’t discuss, is that it really changed the sport. When fencing epee “dry” — no electric scoring — the goal is to convince a group of human judges that you scored a touch and your opponent didn’t. With electric scoring, the goal is to convince the machine that you scored a touch enough sooner than your opponent. This results in much lighter touches, and a greater willingness to take a hit if you can deliver one first.

    Épée (with both acute accents) pronounced eh-PAY is French. English is epee and EH-pay. I’m not sure what the one-accent thing is. (I’m not a French speaker, but am told that épée translates more closely as just sword, and that the specific weapon is more accurately épée de combat.

    • Marchmaine says:

      I took Fencing as a PE rotation at Notre Dame many years ago (do colleges still do PE? Does Notre Dame?). It is/was(?) a quirk of the Golden Dome that no matter who you were or how important you might be, you *always* taught undergrads … so my Fencing instructor was Yves Auriol. A little bit like having Lou Holtz as your Flag Football coach. Alas, I had no idea the quality of instruction and abandoned Fencing (and pretty much all physical exertions) for the rest of my college years.

      As a side note, I also had Alisdair MacIntyre as a philosophy professor and a few other notable if lesser known divines. Whether they were happy teaching foolish undergrads I couldn’t say, but it was part of the deal for the big ND $$. I have no idea whether this is still the case.

      Both my sons joined a casual club as part of our homeschooling and earned E ratings by winning tournaments in Charlottesville. I learned more about fencing as a parent than as a college freshman. A fine sport and excellent form of exercise (I got my own gear to spar with my boys).

      I’m trying to convince my tiny Catholic Liberal Arts Colleges to invest in fencing… it’s really the perfect sport for them… external validation via open tournaments, co-ed, low-cost, easy to learn, hard to master, etc. etc.

    • This seems an important point to me. The rationale for “right of way” is that to initiate an attack after your opponent has already started one is foolhardy. On a human scale this makes a lot (although not totally convincing) sense to me.

      But the machine is detecting the initiating of an attack that’s too close for not only for the judges to see, but also for the fencers. So at this scale it’s not foolhardy to mount an attack after your opponent has since neither fencer can perceive who’s first.

      I wonder if there’s any discussion of this in the fencing world, or is the “right of way” idea too completely woven into the sport for any change to be acceptable?

    • Jaybird says:

      Yeah, I should have added a disclaimer that most of the good information you gave me went through the Cuisinart of my brain before making it to the webpage and so to take it with a grain of something.

  3. James K says:

    It might be of interest to note that fencing is one of the few sports where the competitors pay a fee, but the spectators get in for free.

    It occurs to me that wargaming tournaments work this way too, and probably for the same reason, although our tournaments are inevitably run using Swiss chess, we don’t have people being eliminated early.

    On the book front, I just finished reading Foundation. I plan to do another “economist nit-picks sci fci” post on it, but one thing I noticed was how clearly of the 1950s it was – nearly everyone smoked (a character disliking smoke was unusual enough to be a noteworthy character trait). Also, there was one female character in the book, and her role was pretty minor.

    • aaron david says:

      @james-k You might want to read H. Beam Piper, depending if you liked or didn’t Foundation.

      Which I’ll let you decide.

      • Maribou says:

        So if one *liked* Foundation, one might want to read H. Beam Piper, just to be clear?

        Asking for a friend.

        (Obviously totally not asking for a friend. I loved the hell out of everything Asimov wrote when I was 13-15. Still pretty attached to some of his stuff.)

        • aaron david says:

          Noooo…. It is more a feeling of reading things from a different era. Its honestly been so long since I read Foundation that I barely remember it. Piper is very libertarian also, in a 1960 sense.

      • James K says:


        My motivations for reading Foundation were two-fold:
        1) Every so often I like to read one of the seminal works of science fiction. I have previously read Dune, The Forever War, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress and Starship Troopers on that principle. I feel that Foundation belongs on that list.

        2) I want to do more “An Economist Nitpicks Sci-Fi” posts, and if I’m going to do series with that theme, I need to tackle Pschohistory at some point.

        As for the book itself, I found it interesting (enough that I intend to finish the trilogy), but the writing style was, strange. Aside from the near total absence of female characters, the whole thing was written like an edited transcript from a documentary or something. There was a lot of description of what people were saying or doing, but nothing about their internal mental states. It was fine for a change, but I’m not exactly hanging out for other things that read the same way.

        • Michael Cain says:

          I’d be interested in an economist’s take on James Blish’s Earthman, Come Home, the collection of short stories and novellas centered on the migrant Earth cities, part of the Cities in Flight sequence. Earthman is by far the most interesting of the four books; the others are a pair of prequels and an end-of-the-universe sequel.

    • J_A says:

      The last two books of the original trilogy contain two very major and strong female characters.

      And of course, a female is the key “antagonist” (scare quotes intended-she’s one of my favorite Asimov characters) of the last two books of the original pentalogy.

      And a female is the kick ass/save the day hero of the last book of the original hexalogy (of which the least said, the better)

  4. Maribou says:

    I really loved the fencing adventure, thanks again for giving us the tour, @michael-cain .

    I read a book this week that a lot of you might find interesting, actually. Graphic novel by Brian K. Vaughan called Private Eye. The art, by Marcos Martin, is fabulous, and the elevator pitch goes something like,

    “Imagine a world in which the press and the cops have merged, people generally go out in public masked and with pseudonyms to protect their privacy, and there is no longer an Internet… now go noir.”

    Very interesting reading indeed. (Can’t really say more without getting into politics :D.)

  5. Tod Kelly says:

    I fenced in college, and it was a blast. The one downside it that is unlike a lot of other college sports, unless you are an Olympic-level athlete, you’re pretty much done as soon as you leave school. Not a lot of pick up fencing matches at the Y.

    I just finished Kindred by Octavia Butler, which I was not sure if I would like but did. (Quite a bit, actually.) Now I am reading Barkskins by Annie Prouxl, and so far it’s great.

    I’m also reading (and re-reading) a lot of fairytales/folktales/myths right now, and a few books on the Salem witch trials and the Devil in general from the 19th century.

    Not watching a lot these days, especially now that Rick & Morty won’t be back for another 1-3 years. I tried to get into Gotham a while back but just couldn’t. I’d like to find a series to binge on when I have the time and want to turn my brain down, but nothing grabs me these days.

    • Michael Cain says:

      The one downside it that is unlike a lot of other college sports, unless you are an Olympic-level athlete, you’re pretty much done as soon as you leave school. Not a lot of pick up fencing matches at the Y.

      I was skimming through Summer National results this year as I pulled Colorado participants’ results out for our division web site. I seem to recall a fair number of pretty high finishers from Portland area fencing clubs. Unless the Portland clubs are peculiar, there’s a lot of open fencing available.