Youtube Videos: European and Japanese Armor Mobility

Two short videos comparing two different types of medieval armor from practical point of view. One by an enthusiast owning a medieval armour replica in European style, and one by an enthusiast owning a medieval armour replica in Japanese style. Both armors were made specifically for these individuals, so they are fitted as well as they should be.

A lot of the things I learned in school about medieval armor and swords was evidently completely wrong. Like that armor restricted movement so much that it was impossible to move quickly, or that swords in Europe were blunt metal bars out of poor quality steel.

Poor Man’s Belt Grinder – Mark 1

Belt Grinder

©Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

This was the first iteration of my belt grinder. I built the whole thing out of scraps and it was completely ad-hoc process – piling stuff upon other stuff as it seemed appropriate at the moment. The base is a piece of thick particle board – specifically the piece I had cut out of new kitchen counter for the sink. Further I used a few other cuts of particle board I had lying around and an old 1,5 kW motor from old pump. The tracking wheel, the drive wheel and the platen I got from a cheapo 60,-€ belt grinder that I bought specifically for those – I expected it to be useless and I was correct. The guiding wheels I have built each out of two ball-bearings, a piece of threaded rod, a piece of metal tube as a spacer between those bearings and a stainless steel furniture leg as a shell. The furniture leg did not pass tightly over the ball bearings but I was lucky enough to find for 10,-€ a plastic tube that filled the difference perfectly. The guiding wheels were then fixed between two scraps of plywood together with the platen in hard belt + slack belt configuration.

Lever

©Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

The tracking wheel was a major headache for me. I had everything done but I still did not know how to do that part. As I was mulling it over in my head I got the idea one day whilst driving home from work. I have used a garden gate hinge (a new one, because there was no suitable one in my scrap pile) on which the wheel is fixed to the short wing and the longer wing can rotate. The angle between the hinge wings can be adjusted by a screw going through the long part and pushing against the part that holds the tracking wheel. The force for tension was supplied by a spring from an old bed. The spring ws too long so I had to bend it around a strange wheel of unknown origin.

It has worked reasonably well, after all I made two knives on it and I ground the basic shape of a machete. But mainly it was a proof that I can do this and that it will work. The machine as seen on these pictures does not exist anymore. I have completely rebuilt it and only the base and frame have stayed unchanged.

Anatomy Atlas Part 3 – Upper Limb Skeleton

Human hand has always fascinated me and its skeleton is truly a marvel. Modern industrial robots still lose a lot to its flexibility (hands have seven degrees of freedom of movement, robots have one to six) and versatility (a hand can have a secure grip on almost anything from an egg to an axe).

Upper limb bones

©Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

For learning and examination we did not have a plastic skeleton mounted on a stand in the corner of the class. We had a box in which the real prepared bones of a man who committed suicide at a relatively young age were stored. So each bone could be taken out and examined separately.

One of the scary stories circulating about Professor Kos was relating to this fact. Small bones, like carpal and metacarpal bones, were stored in little pouches so they do not get lost or too mixed up with the rest. It was said that Professor Kos’s favourite way of examination in his former job at medical university was to shake up the pouch, pull one carpal bone out of it and ask which one it is. Any aspiring physician who failed to give prompt and correct answer was fired.

He did not do this to anyone of us that year, but we always felt he might to.

Behind the Iron Curtain part 3 – Religion

These are my recollections of a life behind the iron curtain. I do not aim to give perfect and objective evaluation of anything, but to share my personal experiences and memories. It will explain why I just cannot get misty eyed over some ideas on the political left and why I loathe many ideas on the right.


Today’s Czech Republic is one of the most, if not the most, atheist countries in the world. I encountered people both in meatspace and on the internet who “blame” the former totalitarian socialist regime for this. Mostly such people are coincidentally also people who assign to this godlessness all kinds of moral failings of today’s Czechs and blame their lack of faith for exceedingly high divorce rates, crime rates etc.

When one looks at the actual data though, none of this does fit. Today’s Slovak Republic was under the same regime in the former Czechoslovak Socialist Republic, yet Slovaks are much more religious. Not to mention Poles, who are almost 90% catholic until today. The crime rates etc. are similar in these countries, only abortion rate is very low in Poland – but only because it is mostly illegal and inaccessible, during the socialist regime when abortion was legal, Poles used it at a rate that was not out of the ordinary for the time.

So my (lack of) religious experiences as a child were not to be ascribed only to the regime, but at least partially they were. It was complicated.

The regime was in fact overtly anti-religious. Priests were poorly paid state employees and private donations to churches etc. were not legal to my knowledge. Being religious was not illegal per se, but it was not encouraged either and there were some obstacles put in the way of exercising beliefs. Like all official religions had to register with the state and there were some specific religions and religious sects that were illegal (like Jehovah’s Witnesses).

My grandfather was a devout catholic asshole on whose grave I do not spit only out of respect for my father. My father became disillusioned with religion early on and possibly as an act of rebellion against it he entered the communist party at the age of 18 and was banished by my grandfather as a consequence. My father is the only atheist in that branch of the family. After I was born and my grandfather became deadly sick, my mother and father took care of him in his last years. Grandfather has obliquely acknowledged the child abuse he inflicted on my father, but he never apologized to him directly, only indirectly by saying to my mother that he wronged him yet he is the only one who cares for him on his sickbed. He died before I was old enough to know him.

So I grew up in an atheistic family and went to public school in a regime that did not acknowledge any religion as true and only reluctantly allowed people to exercise some religious beliefs.

At home, religion was never spoken about and I never felt the need to ask about anything. We had plenty of books and I was an avid reader, so I knew about the existence of religions and mystical figures. I feared the devils from fairy tales despite never believing in their real existence. Similarly I knew christian God also only as a fairy-tale father figure granting favors for good deeds. It was not before ten years of age that I learned that there are still people who really believe in Christianity, including in my family. Until that age I thought it was all over, a thing of the past just like Zeus and Hera. After I learned that my favourite auntie is religious, I was completely flummoxed and to this day I never broached the subject with her.

At school, there was some talk about religion in civics, history and literature classes. In fact a very good overview of the development of religion from polytheism to monotheism in Europe from Classical age through Middle ages to Modern era. I do not remember any overt hostility towards any religion during the lectures, only dry information about them and an occasional argument that proves false some specific claim. Later on I learned that religious parents could send children to a sort of sunday school, but I never knew anyone who did so.

Even the christian creation myth was taught – as a myth. And the gorgeous movie La Création du Monde was aired on TV and I loved it as a child.

All in all in my opinion the regime did a good job informing children about religion but did discourage indoctrinating them with any. However I do not think the Iron Curtain played exquisite or even major role in it because Czechs as a whole were seemingly lukewarm about religion for centuries. Which, again, is a different story.

YouTube Video – Putting the Middle Ages in Perspective

I really like videos made by Ian LaSpina who goes under the handle Knight Errant on Youtube. They are short, to the point and are packed with well researched information (at least as far as I can tell). In this video he explains how Middle Ages were not stagnant from technological point of view and progress was being made.

Anatomy Atlas Part 2 – Lower Limb Skeleton

Colloquial Czech does not distinguish between a foot and a leg. The word “noha” normally refers to the whole limb from the hips down. Medical terminology differs from this and the word “noha” means only the foot, and “dolní končetina” is used for the whole limb. Professor Kos has hammered this point home throughout multiple lectures and we were suspecting that if someone were to use the term “noha” in its colloquial sense during an exam, it would be an insta-fail.

Lower Limb Skeleton

©Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

Legs and feet are our means of movement, so they are very important. It is therefore important to look after them. Which, regarding the bones, means adequate exercise and not more than the body can handle.

What ordinary people do not usually know is that bones are not fixed structures. They are consumed from within and regrown throughout our lives. That way they can heal, but also change shape. That way they can also get injured in a rather peculiar fashion.

One of the stories Professor Kos was telling was a story of “march fractures”. Fresh army recruits, especially those from cities who were not accustomed to walking a lot, were often complaining about pains in their legs and feet bones after long marches. Initially they were deemed as pretenders becaue the x-rays looked normal, but some of them broke their legs when forced to go on. Then someone took a magnifying glass to an x-ray of the alleged pretenders legs and feet and noticed microscopic fractures developing before a clearly visible fracture occurred.

These are so-called fatigue fractures and they happen when a bone is deprived of nutrients. The bone continues to be consumed at a normal rate, but it does not manage to regrow back fast enough. Over time these tiny deficits accumulate and the bone starts to hurt and can even break.

A colleague of mine has developed just that in her foot during nordic walking strolls that were just a bit too much, too sudden and too long for her. It took a few weeks to develop and over a year to heal, with a surgery and a very long rehab being necessary.

Too much exercise is just as bad as none.