Philosopher’s Bullet.

Amusing myself with writing vignettes. Here’s one. Constructive criticism is welcome. 

Philosopher’s Bullet.

“We can try to fight our way out with just swords in hand and die. Sixty eight men, even in better armor than the savages, won’t get through the thousand waiting for us at the foot of this hill. They only reason they haven’t come up to get us is they don’t know we can’t shoot. Or we can sit here and try to eat that damn gold idol!”

The situation was dire. Yesterday, the five mules that remained of our once-ample supply train fell to the arrows and javelins of the pursuing locals. With them, perished all of our meat and wine, and most of our lead. The gunners burned through the handful of shots they still had in bandoleers to break us out of the ambush. We did get to the hilltop temple, finding the biggest gold idol we’ve ever seen right when we could not shake off its riled-up worshipers.

“Captain, we have just six halberds in the ranks. Everyone else carries arquebuses. What are we supposed to load in them, pebbles?” My second in command was panicking himself into a demotion, but he could hardly be expected to care about rank when our very survival looked so unlikely. “There’s no pebbles here, and they won’t fly straight anyway.”

We had tried pebbles before: at thirty paces, the wood and fabric armor of our foes turned them, whereas a proper bullet went through both the shield and the savage at seventy. In any case, we had no pebbles at the top of this God-forsaken volcanic rock. Without lead, our men had but their dirks to wield against spears and arrows of the painted red men awaiting us on the way out of this trap.

The irony of it all! The gold idol must be eighty pounds of almost pure metal that we can’t bring home. We can’t stay here long either: we have no food, and what water and wine we still have shall run out by morning. Our one full keg of powder holds a dozen charges for every man, and we even have fabric for wads…just no lead. Europe is full of alchemists seeking to turn lead into gold, and here we are, in need of the reverse miracle.

Night is coming, and the mountain cold with it. We are still dressed for the jungle below. I tell the sergeant to make camp around the temple, and to build two fires. One by the wall, leeward, the other on the narrow path going to the top. If out pursuers attack in the night, we would at least see them. Our own fire should keep us warm and give flame for slowmatch or fuse. I fuse the powder keg in case we are overrun.

There’s little vegetation here, so we make fire with the lacquered wood from around the idol. As the splinters catch and flare, we all must draw back from the flames that are hotter than hellfire. Whatever they used on the wood burns hotter than charcoal without even a bellows.

“Cut it!” I shout. “Cut the idol!”

The troops look at me with incomprehension. A captain will get replaced if he cracks under pressure.

“Bring the bullet molds,” I tell them “Put the gold in them.”

The men obey, some nodding their heads at my madness. Wine mixed in with water in a morion quenches the reddish ball. After it cools, I heft it in open hand: it feels much heavier than lead and somehow more significant. I wad the ball with a piece of cloth cut from my own shirt and roll it into an arquebus barrel, over a charge cut by a third. Tamp it in place with the rod, replace the rod. Prime the pan, close it, then light slowmatch.

“Pace something out to thirty steps” I say, and one of the men settles a badly dented breastplate against a rock.

I sit and take careful aim, wishing for a fork rest. In the shifting light of the campfires, the target seems too far away for a true shot. As glowing red dot dips towards the priming powder, I close my eyes and listen to the hiss of ignition. The boom from the muzzle sounds deeper, the push against the spaulder harder than I expected. The smoke drifts off with the breeze, revealing the armor unbreached but caved in as if with an iron fist. Gold wash covers the entire front of the plate.

“Start melting,” I say “Don’t quit while you have the food for the fire.”

By morning, every arquebusier has an even dozen shots. The idol is gone, with mere specs of metal marking the spot. None of the lacquered wood remains in the temple. The ground around the fires is thick with shiny black soot. We light matches, form up, and march slowly and orderly down the narrow path.

Our foes do not wait for us, but climb the narrow path with every kind of sharp and pointy thing in hand. Fortunately, their bows are feeble and carry but thirty paces. We pause at fifty and let loose the first volley. The lieutenant and I stand higher on the path and see yellow streaks appear from the smoke to smite the first rank…and the second. Some in the third fall too. Our bullets arrive streaking gold and leave splashing red. The second volley follows as the smoke lifts. After the third, the path is clear of the living. The dead don’t bother us.

By noon, we reach the grassy plain and march for the cover where our ship awaits. The savages pursue, we reform into ranks when they get too close. They charge, we volley, they recoil, we march again. By the time we reach the water’s edge, all ammunition is gone but what’s in the bores. Our ship rides close, but the enemy swarm is closer. The shipboard cannon can’t reach them without hitting us too. We see the solid shield wall and let loose with everything we’ve got. The last of the golden streaks arced away. Firelocks on the ground, swords out, polearms to the fore!

We broke them. Sixty one of us, most wounded, boarded longboats. Back on deck, the crew wanted to know if we found gold…

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Chapa, the new kitten.

After Gremlin died, I felt widowed. A few weeks later, a model from eight years ago reached out to me to offer “Drifter”, a little abandoned kitten found by her friend and bottle-fed by Kirsten.

Continue reading
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A Real Hot Rod caption contest

I don’t think his AC would keep up with this…
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Before Olympic air guns — Zimmerstutzen: new on AllOutdoor

Subcaliber training in the 19th century.
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Another review posted.

Guncrafter Industries Hellcat X2, a very competent double-stack 1911.
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A suspicious child

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Tippmann M4-22 review

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Linda Carbine: new on Shooting Illustrated

Wilkinson Arms Linda

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M+M 10x review: new in Shooting Illustrated

M+M 10x review
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Bio-political musings

Much of the political process can be likened to auto-immune disorders: segments of the body politic hijacking the defensive organs of the society, such as police, to attack other elements of the body. In that way, a small and relatively weak group can dominate or exterminate larger groups in the competition for resources.

In the ideal society, that resource competition (socialism) is replaced with comparative advantage cooperation (capitalism). But that ideal society has no need of commissars, and that hurts the feelings of those sense of self-worth is predicated on being in control of others.

More musings on the same topic.

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Differences of detail level

I just tried comparing a full-frame 43MP Sony A7R3 and 135/1.8 Sigma lens bought for $1200 to a 16MP micro 4/3 Panasonic GM5 with an adapted FED 50/2.8 lens (E26m) obtained at a used book store for $4. Sony wins considerably on all counts other than size, which is to be expected. GM5 was obtained for the pocket camera role with a 20/1.7 lens.

5.6, ISO around 250. Click to expand to see the difference in detail.

135mm can be used almost directly into light sources. The 52mm, especially since it has wider coverage than needed, cannot — but its contrast improves greatly with a lens shade or a hand used as a gobo. Edge sharpness on the 52 falls off rapidly, even though only the center quarter of the lens area is used by micro 4/3 camera.

Conclusion: expensive modern lenses are better than cheap obsolete lenses. A real discovery, right? The purpose of my quest was to see if I could use the 52mm for stylizing 1930-1950s look in camera. The answer is “yes”, but focusing has to be done with great care. Even zoomed in, focus was difficult to obtain. The reason I was curious about the 52mm is that I started my photo learning on a FED camera with this or a very similar lens.

Compositions where detail isn’t critical look reasonably good.
Regular 20/1.7 in use. The detail is sharper, more even out to the corners, but the difference isn’t as much as I expected. The 20mm is half the size of the 52mm, supports AF and has much better contrast…at $270 and 60 years newer, that’s not surprising.
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More SHOT Show finds

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The reader

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The problem with socialism

And from this problem comes its corollary…giving up arms is a mistake free people can only make once.

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Catching up on SHOT Show news

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Firebird Targets Deliver Flash and Thunder: new on AllOutdoor

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Two new Keltec guns: new on Alloutdoor

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“Long guns in the mighty .45ACP”

Dillon Blue Press, page 79.

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Test photos of a new model.

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Catching up on movie reviews

Der Hauptmann (The Captain) is a recent German movie about the real-life deserter who impersonated an officer and ended up building a team of psychopathic underlings for murdering (mostly) prisoners. Excellent acting, good visuals, poor special effects.

The Homesman is sort of a Western, but a very unconventional one. Even stranger than Unforgiven, it’s well acted, beautifully filmed, and the story is anything but predictable. Highly recommended, as is Unforgiven.

Lawless is a pretty well acted and filmed gangster movie with a decent degree of realism to it. Special effects are realistic but rather tame when it comes to showing blood.

Dead in a Week or Your Money Back is a cute but eminently forgettable British comedy saved by charismatic actors.

Girl King tries but fails to make a convincing portrait of a very interesting historic character, Queen Christina of Sweden. Her Wikipedia entry is better than the movie.

April and the Extraordinary World is surprisingly good for a kids’ cartoon, mainly thanks to unorthodox world building with the alternative history forking in 1870. 

The Immigrant wins on the quality of acting, the unpredictable story and the excellent period atmosphere created. Recommended.

The most recent iteration of Mowgli flops badly, with the script diverging from the book and with cartoon characters of animals presented with humanoid features that make all of them look rather creepy. Avoid.

Riphagen, another movie based on a real historic fiend, is well done and acted despite minimal budget. Highly recommended.

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, a typical Coen Brothers movie: interesting in parts, uneven in pacing and storytelling. Worth watching once if you like Westerns.

The Road to Calvary is a much better adaptation of the book than the several previous attempts, and better than the book itself as well. Well worth watching for the excellent acting and a convoluted, detailed drama. 

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society tried to be quaint but ended up formulaic despite an interesting premise and reasonably competent actors.

Run, Boy, Run is an epic biographical film presented from the perspective of a kid in WW2 Poland. Much like The Painted bird, it pulls no punches. Highly recommended.

Tulip Fever A 17th century setting populated by characters with entirely modern mindsets doesn’t come across credibly. Excellent lighting and visuals, but flawed storytelling.

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