OK, Someone’s Been Reading Too Much ‘Snow Crash’…

A Johns Hopkins University student armed with a samurai sword killed a man who broke into the garage of his off-campus residence early Tuesday, a Baltimore police spokesman said.

According to preliminary reports, a resident of the 300 block of E. University Parkway called police about a suspicious person, department spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said. An off-duty officer responded about 1:20 a.m. to the area with university security, according to Guglielmi. They heard shouts and screams from a neighboring house and found the suspected burglar suffering from a nearly severed hand and laceration to his upper body, he said.

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15 thoughts on “OK, Someone’s Been Reading Too Much ‘Snow Crash’…”

  1. _”Samurai swords… hm. I suppose it got the job done, eventually._

    _What you want is one of these._”

    By the time you managed to heft one of those monsters a Samurai would slice you three times with a katana.

    European swords evolved to defeat European armor, so they needed to be big heavy unwieldy beasts. Japanese weapons faced different types of armor (layered plates and hardened leather as opposed to chain and plate mail) which favored supreme sharpness and agility.

    Bottom line, against an unarmored opponent, I’d select a shotgun.

  2. You know, I just like the Medieval swords better. There really isn’t much difference.

    Check the stats. That “monster” weighs about two pounds — which is rougly the weight of a katana. I actually do own one, and it’s about the same weight. There’s no speed advantage.

    I’ve studied both the Japanese martial arts and the Filipino ones that descend from the Spanish ones — _Spada y daga_, for example. There’s no speed advantage to the Japanese forms, with the possible exception of _iaido_, which is a “fast draw” form by design. Compared to the works of “Hans Talhoffer”:http://images.google.com/images?hl=en&rls=com.microsoft:en-us:IE-SearchBox&rlz=1I7DKUS_en&resnum=0&q=talhoffer&um=1&ie=UTF-8&ei=Mf6wSuzyJOGTtgeh6uGlCA&sa=X&oi=image_result_group&ct=title&resnum=1 and other surviving Medieval writers, though, I don’t see a lot of differences. Everybody’s doing more or less the same thing, because the body moves more or less the same way.

    Now, as for rusting, that I do believe. Medival swords are often recovered as grave goods, which means they’ve been exposed to damp and cold for centuries. Japanese swords were kept as cherished family heirlooms. When you can find a Medieval sword that was treated that way — “Tizona,”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tizona for example — you’ll find it in much better condition.

  3. Its all about balance. The medieval sword you linked to weighs 2lb 10oz, and is 38″ long with a 31.5″ blade.

    A Katana is defined as having a blade at least 23.6″, is generally about 40″ long and a little over 2lbs. That means the business end holds much less weight. I’ve played with both as well and the Katana seems to me much easier to maneuver.

  4. Is there such a thing as too much Snow Crash? And is it wrong this makes me nostalgic for my Alma Mater and Charm City in general?

  5. Mr. Wishard:

    A very good point, and one I think of often while practicing with wooden wasters.

    Mr. Buehner:

    You’re forgetting, in that analysis, to account for the weight of the quillions and pommel, which are far massier as well; they redirect the point of balance to the hilt nicely.

    If you want a longer hilt, though, “this model”:http://www.albion-swords.com/swords/albion/nextgen/sword-medieval-baron-xiia.htm is essentially the same design, but with a lenghtier grip (and slightly longer blade as well).

    Not to serve as a salesman for Albion Swords; but I’ve been very impressed with their work. What I like most about them is that their swordsmith spends a great deal of time doing the academic footwork in museums across Europe, studying originals. In addition, all of them have an Oakeshott class, referring to Ewart Oakeshott, the famous historian of the Medieval sword.

    In any event, I only meant to be playful about the Japanese v. Medieval swords; it’s one of those “Army v. Marine Corps” debates, that can never really be more than a game. :)

  6. I agree that a comparison between well-tended katanas and Europeans swords rusted to destruction in graves is unfair to the beauty of Western arms.

    At the risk of coming off wimpy and uncool, my choice would be a long-bladed hewing spear (link) and (warning, .pdf) (link).

    I think the key to this incident is (link):

    “You take kids who are paying $50,000 a year (in tuition) and then put them out in a very dangerous city environment, it’s almost like a clash of civilizations,” he said.

    The burglar was an intractable:

    Rice, of the 600 block of East 27th St. in Baltimore, had 29 prior convictions for crimes such as breaking and entering, Guglielmi said. He had been released Saturday from the Baltimore County Detention Center, where he had been held after his arrest by county police last year for stealing a car in the city. He was found guilty in December of unauthorized removal of property and was sentenced to 18 months in prison.

    What is the rule for a whitebread student in dealing with that? The rule is to survive. No attitude or weapon is too primitive, in my opinion.

  7. _”In any event, I only meant to be playful about the Japanese v. Medieval swords; it’s one of those “Army v. Marine Corps” debates, that can never really be more than a game.”_

    Is that a crack about the Marines?! ;)

  8. Ok, so this story is only tangentially related, but it involves sci-fi and samurai swords…. so here it goes.

    Freshman year of college I was required to take a “frontiers” class, which is basically the literature of some area usually not read in college. (So, science, math, art etc). So I took the sci-fi class, which taught me nothing, but introduced me to a few good books (and a few bad ones).

    Our final project had to look at some frontier in science, and explore some possible ‘uses’ that may not be intended by the current research (My group did black hold & quantum theory)

    One group picked ‘bucky balls’. As a chemist, I did have great interest in this subject, having watched a few documentaries about how their ‘cage’ shape is revolutionary in trapping molecules and studying their specifics. They’re now using them to make things like single-molecule wires (& such).

    What did this group pick?
    “Well, we heard bucky-balls were really sharp…. so we would use them to make a sword”.

    That’s it. Millions of dollars in research, and all you want is a sharper sword??!! In hindsight, I was the only scientist in the sci-fi class…

  9. Grim, I was at the Met in NY last year around this time – saw the wonderful permanent collection of swords.

    The medieval swords from europe were rusting pieces of crap.

    The 14th century Katanas look like they were made yesterday.

    I got to see some amazing examples of Japanese swords – all many centuries old – through a friend of my father-in-law. Unreal – they all looked space-age, not ancient.

    The ideal is _ikken hissatsu_ – kill with one blow. Which is exactly what happened here, with a sword in the hands of what appears to be a non-expert.

    A real kendo practitioner probably would have cut the burglar in half.

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