Tuesday, January 27, 2015


Market Day at Birka is an annual event in the East that draws a very large crowd. It is held in the Center of New Hampshire at the Radisson Hotel in Manchester. I refer to it as SCA-con. It has a huge convention center filled with the most merchants I have seen in one place aside from Pennsic, it has a slate of classes and meetings throughout the day, and it also has the Birka Bearpit Tournament.

I... really don't like fighting Birka. I do it every few years, just because, but I generally go to marshal. Inspections start at nine, and the tournament ends at 2... it makes a full day. Generally I then hit the merchants briefly before meetings, but I didn't actually get a chance to do that this year.

Had two meetings... marshal's meeting and Unbelts. The marshal's meeting was important this year, as we have a new Kingdom Earl Marshal, Sir Jibril al-Dakhil. It was his first day on the job, and he used the meeting to pass down some guidelines to the marshals present, outlining our roles in marshaling fights, and a new system for censuring and sanctioning problem fighters in the future. Some concerns about the concept of "active marshaling" were addressed... namely, we as marshals will NOT be calling people dead, rather pointing out when something seems off. He also named some new deputies.... Sir Osgkar was named Earl Marshal Emeritus and will serve Jibril in an advisory role, Ryouko'jin Ironskies will be Deputy for Experimental Weapons, and I will be serving as Deputy for Rules & Clarifications.

The Unbelts meeting was interesting because as of right now, we don't technically have a team, captains,  a Chivalric advisor, or even an official fight at Pennsic, as negotiations are not fully underway. We discussed ideas for training, and drank some whiskey... it was kind of an awesome time. :)

After all this, I tried to go to the merchants quickly before Court... but I ran into so many friends that I didn't actually get to browse any merchants. I like talking to the friends better than spending money anyway...

I really wanted to be in Court for several reasons... first of all because Dalla was being made a part of Order of the Maunche. This is a pretty big deal, and I was very excited for her. I escorted her up when she was called in, and stepped back to wait till she was done... and it was a good thing I waited.
Part of the ceremony involves the presentation of a medallion with the badge of the order. One was being made for her... but had not arrived at Birka! Fortunately, I had one that I made for her as a separate gift in my pouch, and gave it to Their Majesties to present to her instead. It was carved stone, and had both the Maunche badge as well as the Silver Crescent, which she had been awarded previously.

A new member was added to the King's Order of Excellence as well, Lord Alexander Clarke from the Shire of Hadchester. Alexander does wonderful 14th century stuff, and has really gone out of his way to portray his persona in a period manner, including organizing period style deeds of arms. I was very excited to welcome him to the Order.

Icing on the cake for the evening was when two men who I greatly respect were inducted into the Order of the Pelican. Tiberius Iulius Rufus and his knight Sir Gareth were both made Peers of that order, and both well deserved. Tiberius has served as a shining example to me for many years in doing things in a period manner, and Sir Gareth has inspired me to try new crafts... it was due to an interaction with him at Pennsic a couple years ago that I started to embroider (though I'm not all that good at it).

All in all... it was an awesome day.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Jousting: In which Uncle Olaf gets banned from go-karts.

So I promised the esteemed Mr. Ringo a story... a story about go-karts. Stop me if you've heard this one. Actually don't... siddown and shut up. You know you like the story... unfortunately, this version is missing missing wild hand gestures, sound effects, and suffers from an excess of sobriety. Apologies. Drink some whiskey and pretend.

The following story is true to the best of my recollection. Any mistakes are purely mine, but I will probably blame you anyway. Names have not been changed to protect the innocent, because I have met them all, and they're really not all that innocent...

So years ago, early in my SCA days, Dwarf had a birthday party at his place in Vermont. This was not an SCA event, though most of us there were in the SCA, including our Princess (at the time) Marieke. During the day we had some fighting and other assorted games, including "kaber tossing" with 4x4 posts.

The fighting had would down and the bunch of us from Outpost had packed to leave when someone got a brilliant idea... let's joust! On go-karts!!! For the record... everyone involved was sober (at the time).

"We need to go." I said. "Now".
"No, let's stay, I want to watch!!!"
"If we stay, I WILL end up on one of the karts."
"It will be fine!!!"

So the rules were decided on... the small karts would hold (barely) one driver and one "jouster". The jouster had to balance precariously on the side of the kart with a spear in one hand while the driver played the part of the horse... making them go and aiming them in the (more or less) right direction. They decided that only the jouster needed to be armoured (helm and body armour) as the driver was off limits. Seemed reasonable... All this worked out, they armed and armoured themselves, and got ready to joust.

As far as I recall, the teams were Dwarf & Wulfhere on one kart, and Egil & Cenwulf on the other. As Egil walked by the spectators getting his helmet ready, one of the bystanders said "I have a bad feeling about this."
"Me too!" said Egil... then he put on his helmet and hopped on the kart. Now anyone wo has EVER met Egil knows, when he says something is a bad idea, you really should very quickly reach minimum safe distance... if there is one.

They made several passes around the yard, and it seemed Egil's kart wasn't really maneuvering well or getting up speed. It came to a halt in front of me, Cenwulf tumbling out of the driver's seat.

"I need a lighter driver... get on!!!" said Egil.

What was I to do? No choice, really... I got on.

At the point we switched, Dwarf was on the other side of the house. All he knew was that we were suddenly tearing by at a much higher rate of speed. I quickly realized that I could only really turn right... if I turned the other way, it dumped Egil off the side, possibly getting him run over.
We made a few passes, with the jousters landing some good hits on each other. At one point when a spear grazed my ear, I thought to myself "Huh... maybe a helmet would have been a good idea..."

Shortly after this, after turning around at the top of the yard, things went sideways. I realized that my trajectory was such that I was faced with a choice. I wasn't going to clear the other kart... I could either hit them head on, hit the crowd of spectators (which included the Princess), or crank the wheel left, hope Egil survived the fall from the kart, and hope I could spike the brakes in time to not slam into the trees that were there.

I chose the last option, as it seemed to endanger the fewest people.... I cranked left hard, and lo and behold Egil didn't fly off! Yay! Except... Egil was leaning down hard on my gas pedal foot... and we went full speed into the trees.

When we hit, Egil went flying off, ripping his helmet off and cutting his chin when he landed. My death grip on the steering wheel snapped it off in my hands, and the shattered remains of the steering column cut my leg... making a near perfect flyflot, the mark of Thor's hammer.

Everyone came running to check me out. Only one person went to look at Egil... and she happened to be young, pretty, and wearing a skirt. Everyone decided I was fine when I told them to move because they were blocking my view. (I really am a terrible person, fundamentally...)

After getting the bleeding from my leg stopped, and apologizing to Dwarf for breaking his go-kart (sorry again Dwarf...) I went to apologize to Egil. Told him "Sorry dude... I tried to stop, but you were leaning on my gas pedal leg..."

"That was awesome driving man!" he replied. "Of course I was leaning on your leg, I didn't want you to STOP!!!"

My wife banned me from go-karts for years after that....

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Snorri Olafsson: How Uncle Olaf has a son

So the posts referring to Snorri as my son has caused several people ask "But Uncle Olaf... you and Dalla are expecting your first child... how do you already have a son? And how is he a grown adult when you're so young?"

The answer to that question is simple: he's my son because we say so.
I was raised with a very clear understanding that family is more than blood. Raised by my aunt and uncle, I grew up calling them Ma and Dad... because that's what they were. I knew my blood mother and father. I called (and still call) them mom and dad. But I recognized and valued the connection that I had with the ones who raised and cared for me. I had other aunts, uncles, grandparents... who were no biological relation. They took on surrogate roles for me, and they considered themselves family because that is what I considered them.

When I got involved in the SCA, I was adopted into the family of Harald Ulfsson. He called me son, and his family... both SCA and mundane... became mine. When I first started forming our own SCA House, I very much considered all of those members family. I still do.

Snorri got involved with our local group in college. He began hanging out with a member of my House, and then with us. He worked in my shop, and spent many a project night doing his homework for college seated at the bar while I worked on projects. Eventually he got more involved with the SCA, and went from being Nate to Snorri... and we decided he needed a last name. Norse naming practices would have his name followed generally by a descriptor or a patronymic (or both). There were exceptions, but put simplistically, this is how it went.

After several suggestions and discussions, Snorri asked if it was OK if he used the patronymic "Olafsson", as I had been something of a surrogate father to him. I was humbled. To be told that meant alot, and I agreed. I also made sure to impress upon him how seriously I took that. I consider him my son... for real. When our baby is born, it will know Snorri as its brother... because that's what he is. I have had people say "Well, he's not REALLY your son"... well, bullshit. Being adopted doesn't make a family less of a family.

Snorri now has a daughter, and I consider her my grandchild. They are my family because Snorri wished it so, and I was proud to have him.
Dalla and our grand bebe Haley 

Ni kar'tayl gai sa'ad - "I know your name as my child"- Mandalorian adoption vow
It seemed appropriate....

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

On Object Lessons, or: Snorri's Reliquary

Object lessons are very important tools at Uncle Olaf's School of Hard Knocks. You can tell people things over and over, and they will smile and nod.... and sometimes even do what they are told... but there will, occasionally, be that moment when something happens to bring them sudden and clear understanding. And sometimes first aid.

My son Snorri had one of these moments a couple of years ago at Pennsic. We were down in the woods battle when I noticed that Snorri wasn't wearing what I would consider adequate hand protection behind his shield. I pointed out this folly... I felt that he could easily have his hand injured with the light street hockey glove he was wearing. He responded "But hand protection isn't required behind my shield...".
He was, of course, correct. The rules do indeed state that "A shield alone may be considered an equivalent to full hand protection only if no part of the gloved hand or wrist is within 4 inches (10.2 cm) of the edge of the shield while the shield is in use."
But... there's the rules, and there's good sense... and I knew people that had their hands injured recently. I told him to ask Sir Rhys about wearing adequate hand protection, as he had recently had one such injury.

Sometimes life does not wait long to deliver object lessons. This was one such time.

The next day in the field battles, I had to sit out due to equipment failure, so I was up at camp packing up. A breathless runner came into camp looking for me, informing me that Snorri was at chirurgeon's point injured. Dalla and I flew down there with all the speed we could muster. I entered the tent to see Snorri on the bed... with a hand wrapped in bloody bandages. I didn't have to say a word... he looked at me and said "I DIDN'T TALK TO SIR RHYS YET!!!"


His thumbnail had been ripped mostly off, and was hanging on by just a small corner. It would have to be removed, and the nail bed covered up. This would require local anesthetic. Turns out the reason they sent for me was that Snorri has a real problem with needles, and wasn't going to allow them to stick him. I sat beside him and took his other hand, and the doc took the injured hand. I then palmed Snorri's face and held it down, and told the doc to do his thing. The anesthetic was only sorta working... but I pointed out to the doc that sorta was probably good enough, and to keep going.

He ripped the remnant of the nail off, and stitched a small aluminum cover to the nailbed. It was nice work...

Snorri, who we mentioned was still feeling much of this, began to cuss. Alot. Repeating "fuckfuckfuck" like a mantra. As there were people present... many, by this point... I tried to distract him and get him saying something else. The "something else" ended up being the refrain to "Sophia" by the Cruxshadows. We repeated it together over and over while they stitched the metal thumbnail on. Dalla tells me it got quiet, and everyone watched in awe through this. It was apparently a pretty solemn moment....

Do not injustice to another
Defend the weak and innocent
Let truth and honor always guide you
Let courage find a life within

Stand up when no one else is willing
Act not in hatred or in spite
Be to this world as a perfect knight
Even if it means your life

The Reliquary on the wall of Wolf's Den Pub
During all this, one of the nurses... a former combat medic... was standing by. He asked if he could take pictures of the injury. I said sure, as long as he sent me copies. We also took the ripped off nail.
When they asked me why, I told them... it was going in a reliquary on the pub wall. When we got home, it did just that, and remains there to this day... a reminder, if you ask Snorri... to ask Rhys.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Time to refocus: Uncle Olaf and his axe.

At our annual Outpost event Fall Frolic in September, we have our Shire Championship tournament. This is a tournament held to determine the rattan champion for the Shire for the coming year. Not really making a conscious decision, I fought the tournament solely with my axe. I used it in all my fights till the finals against Rhys, and then basically decided to "dance with the one that brought me"... and finished the tournament with it.

This event, and a look back at the last few months of fighting prompted a decision to refocus my energies on my axe fighting. I built a new axe, as close as possible to my steel dane axe, and have fought with only axes since then. I did fight sword and shield at one Coldwood practice, against Aiden.

It has been good for me, I think. I had become a bit complacent in throwing shots I knew worked much of the time, and stopped exploring what the axe could really do. Fighting the axes every practice (both my shorter dane axe and longer war axe) against whatever weapons forms my opponents were fighting really made me step back and evaluate what the axe is capable of doing, and figure out how to make myself capable of letting it do that. I have also been watching some axe tutorials on Youtube...  ones I have watched before, but going over them again and picking up stuff, or remembering things I forgot. Duke Eikbrandr's video and Duke Tomuki's videos are some of my favorites.

I have focused keeping the tempo up and firing multiple shots... not just combos, but  shots to displace shields and then strike, or shots to set my opponents stance or move them where I want them. This, combined with the faster tempo, can create gaps in or completely overwhelm a defense. It requires more stamina... I am moving an axe quickly and alot... so I have tried to work on that.

One of the ways I have been working on stamina, tempo, and targeting is by using an axe. Not my SCA rattan axe, but a steel one. In a blog by Christian Cameron he discusses what he believes to be
an important training tool in period... chopping wood. I agree with most of his points, and during Closing of the Inne this year, when I could not fight due to an injury, I chopped wood. ALOT of wood.... all weekend. Wood really is the fuel source that warms you twice... once when you chop it, once when you burn it. It also, as Mr. Cameron discusses, really requires technique and precision to chop wood well. You need to place multiple strikes with a small blade at precise angles in a very small target area... say half an inch or so. Repeatedly. This is exactly the kind of thing that trains you to strike at small openings in a defense, or to MAKE those holes and capitalize on them.

So here I sit, three months later, looking at what this focus has bought me. I definitely feel more competent with the axe most of the time. I still have those derp moments where the brain just stutters... that happens.

But generally, I feel pretty good about it. I have been able to make Sir Rhys have to respond to my attacks and change his defense instead of feeling like I am playing his game all the time, and that's definitely an improvement. I have been told to focus on movement and speed, working on controlling range, and that's valid. I do tend to get sucked into brawls, which isn't always good.

I definitely need to travel more... occasionally I get to Coldwood and Harrowgate Heath, but I would love to do more. Time and money limit me there... and will probably continue to do so.

If you see me at an event... pick a fight. I need to work against a variety of different forms, so don't feel like you need to match weapons (though I am always happy to discuss axe).