Tag Archives: Rambling

You Must First Create the Universe

It’s almost a throw-away line, though now widely quoted and oft recalled. In the original Cosmos, hosted by Carl Sagan, a scene begins with a waiter walking through an empty restaurant with an apple pie, placing it in from of Mr. Sagan who, in his usual calm, paced tone sets the scene.

If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.

And so it is with many things.

What constitutes “from scratch” differs from person to person, though some thing are taken from granted. Baking a pie from scratch does not – for the most part – first start with inventing the universe, but rather with rolling some dough. It does not, however, start with buying a pre-made pie crust, though in the grander scheme of things is there really that much of a difference?

The 2018 hobby de jure that I’ve adopted is cocktail culture, preparing and inventing cocktails for my own enjoyment out of a basement-based fridge. If you frequent my twitter you’ve probably seen threads on making the Trinidad Sour, the Bijou, and the Last Word (among others).

The perhaps my favorite cocktail, and the favorite of my lovely Brigid, is a simple martini. I usually like mine dry with a dash of absinthe and garnished with a lemon peel.

I love the combination of gin and absinthe enough to have commissioned a bit of artwork of it for my calf.

So, anyway, I’m rambling.

This is going to be be a cocktail thread. I am going to make a cocktail for you and I’m going to teach you, step by step how to make it. It’s got a lot of ingredients, it’s got a lot of steps, and you will need some specialized equipment.

Because I am going to make a martini, as legally as I possibly can… from scratch.

And to make a martini from scratch, you must first invent vermouth.

VERMOUTH

I chose to start with vermouth because for many folks vermouth is a secondary ingredient that can, callously, be tossed away without a second thought. There is a long-standing series of jokes that a martini is a glass of gin served with a bow to France,  or on a postcard from Italy, but I don’t necessarily subscribe to that line of thinking.

A martini, in short, is a cocktail made primarily from two ingredients: gin and vermouth. The balance between those two partners it what gives it the majority of its characteristic. From “perfect” (2:1 gin to vermouth ratio) to dry (3,4,5:1) to very dry (10+:1) Other things can be added to it, but it’s got to be both.

Aside, though you use “dry” vermouth, a “dry” martini means more gin, not more vermouth (which makes it “wetter”, or sweeter). This goes back to when “dry” gin (as compared to what is now known as “Old Tom” gin) was new and it needed to be ordered specifically.

Again, I digress.

Vermouth is a herbal wine that includes wormwood, in fact the name “vermouth” comes from the French spelling of the German word for wormwood. Most recipes I’ve seen call for the addition of sherry as well as some other herbal components to be steeped into the wine after it’s made.

So my thought is… I can make wine. I’ve made plenty of wine. And wine is legal to make in my basement. So I’m going to make a crazy Michigan Vermouth from apples, cherries, cherry pits, sugar, and honey.

First order of business was dice up apples and pit the cherries.

Apples getting diced.

I wanted to keep the cherry pits because they impart their own flavors, but I wanted them separate so I could deal with them separately.

So then I threw those into some steeping bags and threw the bags into a 2-gallon plastic bucket.

Next it was time to pix the additives for wine, namely tannin and pectic enzyme into 2.5 quarts of nearly boiling water. I also used this to dissolve the sugar and the honey.

In a mortar and pestle I crushed two campden  tablets (to kill any natural yeasts and bugs that might be on the fruit) and the yeast nutrient.

The near-boiling mixture is dumped over the fruit, and the nutrient/campden mixture is poured and stirred in as well.

The campden tablets take a day to do their work, so the bucket is left covered in my wine cellar overnight for the yeast the next day.

The next day, soon as I got home from work, I pitched the yeast and got a blow-off installed.

First I proofed the yeast for a bit, basically mixed it into some warm water to wake them up. I’m using my favorite: champagne yeast, because it ferments dry and I can always add sweetness back. But in this case I really am interested in complete dryness here.

Pitched it into the bucket and gave it a good stir. The red from the cherries is already really starting to come out.

And it goes back into the spider-filled hole that is my cellar.

NINE DAYS PASS

Okay, so the glory of wine/vermouth making is that there’s a lot of sitting around a doing nothing. Generally I usually stick to the rule of thumb that you should leave the wine in the first fermenter for about a week. This meant probably racking it over on a Monday, but Monday I didn’t feel well and literally went to bed around 4pm and slept until dinner at 6pm, then slept on-and-off for another four hours before dragging myself to bed where I slept soundly until work at 5am.

Tuesday was the last game of the 2018 Detroit City campaign so that wasn’t going to work. But Wednesday? Wednesday is the day I work from home so after running an errand or two I returned to rack the wine over.

So I moved my equipment up from the spider cave up to the kitchen and then brought up the wine and the degas bottle. The fermentation had been extremely vigorous and spent yeast lined the bucket and the lid. There was a small amount of lees in the degas tube, but not much and none in the bottle, which was good. I was hoping to get two-ish gallons out of this batch, which is twice what I normally make.

First step, check the wine and see if it went bad.

That color. Absolutely gorgeous. A bit strange for dry vermouth, but that’s the fun of making it yourself. Plus, as I was telling Brigid, this will help with the color of the compound gin, which is usually a pale yellow/brown.

You can see here that the color had been entirely sucked out of the cherries. I also removed the pits, not pictured here as I had them in a disposable bag that went straight into the trash. This bag is reusable so it got cleaned out.

And there’s the wine! Excluding the bit lost to the siphon, I got 1.5 gallons, so I am going to cut it with water to get an even 2. Wine I make tends to be super alcoholic anyway, so that’s not a huge concern. Even cut it’s probably at least 12% by volume. I don’t really take the readings and stuff because my hydrometer was shattered in the move and I am too cheap to replace it. Plus I don’t really care that much, I’m more worried about taste and I tend to ferment dry and then cut/sweeten at the end as needed.

Is that the right way? Probably not.

Do I care? Absolutely not.

Here’s the actual racking in progress.

The fall from wine is called “lees”, a mixture of fruit and mostly dead yeast. These yeasty fellows died so that we might drink. Tonight I raise a zero-calorie sparkling water to them. Santé!

And two happy jugs with a gallon of wine each. My plan is to bottle and only turn maybe a liter and a half (two bottles) into vermouth, which will involve a secondary period of soaking with some botanicals.

Botanicals, for those not into drinks like gin, absinthe, and vermouth among others, are the selected herbs, spices, and other organic additives that are used to give those drinks their particular flavors. Some drinks are strongly defined by their botanicals: like gin with juniper (and coriander seed), absinthe with anise and wormwood, vermouth with wormwood as well. Some drinks are absolutely crazy with their botanicals, like chartreuse (which uses 110+ last I checked) and you can find some absolutely amazing additions like I have a gin, Terrior by St. George Spirits, which uses Douglas Fir among other botanicals native to California.

The last thing I did  before returning the wine to its slumber in the spider pit was take a bit of a taste test. It was good. Not the best I’ve made, but it was tart and light and crisp, which was nice. Obviously the apple and cherries were there, which was good, I was afraid I might’ve not added enough. Also very yeasty, as to be expected. With all that done, the wine will be allowed to rest for at least a week, probably a week and a half so that I could do the next racking on a weekend.

Ten…ish Days Pass

So I didn’t really keep track of time, instead I found some free time during an otherwise rather busy Sunday which also involved cooking ribs and making pasta salad and BBQ sauce to move over the two gallons of wine I had downstairs.

Pretty quick after moving the jugs into the basement, I had noticed a pretty strong lees fall and that the wine was practically clear already, almost ready to stabilize and bottle, even though it had only been three weeks or so. And you can’t argue with the results.

There’s about an inch or more of lees at the bottom and I’m going to be careful not to suck too much of that up when I make the transfer. Once again, let us raise a glass to the yeast that dies so we might drink. Salute!

It was a pretty quick day. I did take another taste of the wine. It is very, very light. Just a hint of apples and cherries. I suspect that the vermouth is going to be very heavy on the botanicals, but we shall see. The wormwood and gentian root have already arrived and everything else I can grab from Kroger or the cabinets. Currently I am waiting on a botanical for the gin, rose hips, which had originally arrived in pill form.

So apparently that’s a thing. Thanks online herb shop.

Two. Weeks. Later

So, since I have everything in, including another last second order from the online herb shops, I’ve decided to make my vermouth at the next racking, which I think was on day thirty-four, but really I’ve lost count and care at this point. Also this is being written on the final day and I’m starting to get sick and the next section (“GIN”) is a huge step back in time for me but is more or less a straight narrative for all of you.

So here’s our botanicals for the vermouth: wormwood, gentian root, sage, cardamon pods, coriander seed, chamomile flowers, cinnamon sticks, half a vanilla bean, the rind of a lemon, and the rind of an orange.

Here it all is as a tea-like mixture. I have to admit the chamomile bag is great just to open and stick your face into. I’ve really enjoyed that part of this whole experience: smelling and trying all these botanicals in the raw forms and then as a drink.

I put the loose botanicals in tea bags and then pour 1500ml of my wife, freshly racked over them. I’ve also added stabilizer to the mix to prevent the yeast from reawakening with the addition of a bit more sugar. As you can see here, the tea bags are floating, which is a bit of a problem. After some attempts to push the air bubbles out of them, I give up and tie them to a spoon and throw that in there too. Fuck it.

For those of you following along on twitter, this is when I made my Fuckitmosa, using the remains of the lemon and the orange. That was fucking amazing and temporarily held my cold at bay. I then took the mixture down into the spider den to await its fate.

Two. More. Days. Pass.

It is now day thirty-six or so.

I’m tired. I’m definitely getting sick. I’m over-caffeinated. And I’m tired.

Yes, I know I literally just wrote that bit above, but I’m also hungry and that’s exacerbating the whole problem. Also I just drank raw, warm vermouth so… you know… spoilers.

Here is everything we need to finish up, including a bottle of extra dry sherry, which is going to help fortify the vermouth. In this picture I’ve naively believed I’d be able to use a coffee filter to filter this. In time, I will be proven a fool.

This is going abysmally slow and I have to hold it.

Just dumped it into the bowl.

Then ran it through the brita. Not sure why I didn’t just do this to start, but again: hungry, tired, sick.

And there we go! The vermouth is done! I’ve corked one bottle and the other I’ve just stuck a stopper in because I’m going to pop it in the fridge and later tonight I’m going to finally have my fucking martini.

But first I’m going to try the vermouth raw. The color is very interesting, and though the whole thing started red, it’s a pale gold here. And the nose is really, really full of cinnamon and chamomile, but the taste is very, very herbal. I don’t think Brigid is going to ever drink that straight again, and honestly, I might not either.

I’ve been told sweet vermouth is good on the rocks with some soda water or even just as-is, but this? This might need a little something to cut the flavor. But it’s not bad, just strong.

GIN

Gin is a deceptively simple and beautiful drink. I was on the gin subreddit recently talking about what botanicals we liked in gin and the conclusion of my response was this:

I like being surprised with something new or unexpected, which I think is why I love botanical-based spirits like gin, vermouth, chartreuse, and absinthe so much. There’s a piece of the maker’s soul in there. They chose these botanicals over all others to give me a little taste into their minds.

The booze fridge in my basement is always full but the vast majority of it is gin. Gin gin gin-gin-gin.  Piney gin. Citrusy gin. VERY piney gin. Peppery gin. Detroit gins. London gins. Dry. Old Tom. Fruity gin. American, British, German… you name it, it’s probably there.

And everything that isn’t gin can probably be mixed with gin some way to make something better.

So I really considered what I wanted out of this gin. I had already done the compound process to mixed success. The flavors, while there, were very muted and it tasted, even when served plain, very watered down. I knew I needed to up the ante.

So up it I did.

This gin is a very floral gin. For one liter of vodka the botanicals were:

  • 45g juniper
  • 15g coriander seed
  • 3 cardamom pods
  • 6 pepper corns
  • 6g fennel
  • 10g lavender flowers
  • 15g rose buds
  • 20g rose hips
  • 3g lime peel
  • 8g lemon peel

The final ingredient, the rose hips which had originally been delivered in pill form, arrived on day 25 and I ran out and bought a liter of vodka soon after with Brigid.

Basically you weigh out and pour each botanical into a container and then add vodka. I also strain the vodka because I hate how it tastes.

And then you basically steep the botanicals in the vodka like you’re making a very slow, very boozy room-temp tea. This is called a compound gin, because the botanicals were not distilled with the alcohol. Distilling is illegal without a permit in the US because, among other things, it’s dangerous and can one can potentially  produce poisonous drinks by bottling the pure methyl alcohol that comes out at the start of the distilling process.

I have been told that the above is incorrect – that a small still would not create the pressures needed to explode and assuming one began your gin with a pre-distilled grain alcohol, there would (for obvious reasons) not be any methyl alcohol. 

Compound gins are far easier to make, and while they might have an ugly brown color, instead of crystal clear, they are absolutely delicious and you can make smaller batches to experiment with your favorite botanicals.

So after adding the first day’s botanicals, I put the gin in the basement next to it’s eventual partner in boozy crime, where it’ll sit (with an occasional shake) for two days. After those two days you have what appears to be a tea and smells like all hell.

What I do is remove the botanicals by running it through a strainer in a bowl, give it a taste, then run it through the filter, give it a taste, and repeat as necessary. Sometimes it is helpful to remove botanicals at day one and and add fresh ones, but this one I let sit for the two days. And the initial nose is full of flowers. It’s amazing.

The first taste was heavy on the vodka, and gritty. Both of these are easily removed by the brita.

So that’s not the gin you’re used to – clear as day, but it’s definitely gin. I took a sample to my lovely wife, who approved, and I bottled it up.

The initial liter of vodka gave us about 750ml of gin. There are some losses to the botanicals, though I did give them a light presing, as well as to the filter. I wasn’t suspecting it’d be that much, but it is what it is, and 750ml is plenty enough for the original task.

THE MARTINI

Twenty-nine hundred eight-five words later… thirty-six days… several herbal store orders, one botched rosehip conundrum, and a few drips to the liquor store for vodka and sherry. It’s all leading to this. Possibly either the best, worst, or most mediocre martini I’ve ever made.

So, I started off intending to make a 5:1 martini, garnished with olives, but a math error meant I made a 10:1 martini garnished with olives, so this is a bit out my normal zone.

I gathered all the materials.

  • 2.5 oz homemade compound gin
  • .25 oz homemade dry vermouth
  • 2 olives

We’re going to stir with ice to combine and chill, then pour into a martini glass. When finished, it should look something like this:

A normal dry martini is crystal clear, this is not. The vermouth is a pale gold, the gin a deep rusty red. Combined it looks more like a Manhattan or Martinez. At 10 to 1, this is a very gin-forward drink. The gin, with heavy notes of juniper with a floral bouquet on the nose fades into an herbal note.

Does this finish among the best martinis I’ve ever made or had? No. Far from it. The gin is a tad powerful and I think that even with a full half ounce of vermouth it still wouldn’t be enough to balance out. This might need a retesting at 3:1 or even 2:1 to completely balance out.

However, it is far from the worst martini I’ve ever had. As it gets farther down in the glass and the olive brine begins to soak in, it’s a bit more balanced than when I started.

So there you go: a simple, straightforward way to make a martini, one of the oldest and most recognizable cocktails ever in only 36 days and probably close to a $100 in materials not including the equipment I had lying around for wine making.

Too often, I think, we often forget the craftsmanship that goes into the things around us; from food to furniture, from our cars to our cocktails. There is a primal sort of joy in doing something ‘from scratch’ from taking the long way home instead of the direct routes.

I like to step back and do those things when I can, and being as unhandy as I am, that can be both nerve-wracking and dangerous.  So when the opportunity presents itself, I don’t hesitate to take it. Whether it’s mixing a Trinidad Sour, choosing botanicals for a compound gin, or sitting down to write a chapter in a book. Sometimes it’s worth rolling things back as far as you can and retracing the steps of so many before you little by little.

If anything, I hope this very long update has inspired you to try something new, to explore the process of creation. And I wish you luck on that journey. Until next time.

Cheers.

The Making of a Fantasy Team

Taldērszon, gamédunz!

I don’t often start my posts with conlang stuff, but I think today’s long-overdue post deserves it. Over this long break I decided to work on a project that I’ve been kicking around in my head for a while, specifically because it would combine my fantasy world, my conlang, some calligraphy, and of course soccer kits.

Well, technically hurling kits, but I digress.

For those who are new to the site, I dabble in fantasy writing; I’m currently about 3,000 words into book four with the intent to finish writing the drafts of the books before cleaning them up and publishing them one after the other sometime in the unknown future. One of things I like to do in my downtime is work on world building for the setting of my fantasy realm. This often involves long periods of working on nothing in particular but time wasters and stuff like that. But one thing I hit on a while ago was to do a fantasy World Cup, including all the participating nations and everything.

I got a lot of work done on that, but as I kept writing I didn’t like the idea that I was making much of the World Cup work invalid. So it became hard to focus on an eventually I gave up on it. Plus I found designing crests very difficult. I actually talked about this on a previous post and this is a similar post to that, the road one takes when working on a literal fantasy sports team. Regardless of the outcome, it was a lot of fun to work on and it definitely improved my design-sense when it came to soccer kits.

So, moving forward, I wanted a smaller-scale thing to work on. Something that was based in a part of the world that was decently fleshed out and unlikely to change too much – Hadyrland, the main setting for the books.

Makes sense, right?

Plus I’ve already worked on some conlanging and stuff, so I can make it truly fantastical. This is also something I’ve worked on in the past, though it was in the days before I got my PSD templates. The work even got me a nod from Azzurri, the Italian-based maker of kits. So that was awesome.

I’ve learned a lot since then, about how kits work and why there are design limits put on them. It gave me a lot to think about moving forward.

A recent-ish project you might’ve seen getting posted onto twitter were just huge dumps of Wikipedia-styled kits. I’m actually not done with them yet, but here’s the gist: five leagues of 20, 20, 22, 24, and 24 teams divided into four tiers, with the two 24-team leagues representing an East/West regional divide for low-tier teams.

Part of this was an off-shoot of another project I was working on to update my map of Hadyrland to be much more accurate and give me a better understanding of the human geography of the region. Accents, religion, income, population density. Part of that was adding the smaller towns and cities that surrounded large ones and that got me thinking about low-tier soccer.

So with the goal of making 110 teams, I set out.

I picked cities, names, years founded, tri-codes, colors, how many top-tier championships they had won, and even the “identity” of the club. Identities included political affiliations (including non-political and even anti-political), racial and religious affiliations, and in a few cases military-backed clubs. This really gave a sense for the world, the cities these people lived in, and what made them get up and go to a game in the morning.

The club that I wanted to work on was Union Macenburgh, which I mentioned in that previously linked post.

It was a club designed to have my heart from the get-go. A top-tier team that hadn’t given up its identity for fame, one that fed a huge Old Firm-styled rivalry with the big club across the river. It is the home club of one of my main POV characters and for a chapter in book two, we actually get to go to a game (though a game long before the rules were ever really codified outside of the local “understood” rules).

So I started at the base-level. What is “Union Macenburgh” in Hadysh?

Well, that was pretty easy – Macenburgh is “Moxn” in Hadysh. Union is “Opubfę”. Combining them it’s Opubfę Moxnd (with the “d” at the end sort of being like an ‘s in English).

Cool. That’s done.

Next was the crest. 

I wanted to work with a monogram-style, much in the vein of the baseball work from last time. The crest is the club’s name abbreviated (OMd). I debated having the d as a superscript because it’s not really an initial (we’ll see this later), but I liked how it came out when it was at an even footing.

Hadysh is a unicase script, meaning there’s no upper or lower case letters. It’s heavily based on the Armenian and Georgian alphabets, which I think are truly beautiful. The influences from Armenian are much more apparent, with lots of u-looking glyphs.

This particular font is “Western Blackletter”, or a script that arose in the western part of Hadyrland (where Macenburgh is). It differs slightly from Eastern Runic forms and it’s decedent systems. I can make a whole post on that, and I probably will, but later.

Next I did the sponsor:

Here it is another abbreviation, this time for “Opubfę Acléęttaƥin ț Unħódna Moxnd” which means “Macenburgh Dockyard and Packing Union”. The though process here was even though this was a big team, it still pulled from local companies and groups for sponsorship, usually with a focus on manufacturing and labor, which is a vital part of both the club’s history and the city’s financial security. Macenburgh is a twin city with Blackwater Port, which the later being the more economically well-off and globally powerful. So if Blackwater Port is New York City, Macenburgh is New Jersey.

This also gets into a weird little tidbit about Hadysh: most conjunctions (like “and”) are single sounds. If the word following starts with a consonant, you add a vowel to the end, but you don’t write it, it’s implied. But that means the ampersand for Hadysh is just another letter on the keyboard, not hidden away above the 7, which is good because Hadysh has two numerical systems…

Anyway…

From that previous post on Hadysh hurling, Macenburgh’s main colors are maroon and gold and they generally wear hoops, which is usually, but not always, a marker for working-class teams.

The last bit was a bit of a slogan, one that if you’re a St. Pauli fan you might’ve seen.

Now for this I used the digital font I’ve been working on for a couple months now, so unfortunately there’s no scan document to show.

Get the easy bit out of the way, the lower bit is a name, “Ulēmad”. The top bit is what we’re interested in, “K̦o kémõ za ay͂a̋fa̋nyodda̋õs” – No Hurling for Fascists.

Ay͂a̋fa̋nyodda̋õs was an interesting word to come up with. Most, if not all, of the vocabulary I have thus far is not modern in sense of what words are available. I might have “cart” but I don’t have “bus”, I might have “pen” but I don’t have “computer”.

But the idea of “fascism” is a modern term so it required a lot of work, more than usual. First I needed to expand my fixes to include “ism” and “ist”. For the former, I used a modified instrumental case, dropping the object fix at the end and only keeping “a(~)-“. The ~ marks that the fix causes nasalization to the next consonant if that consonant can be nasalized. For “ist” I used “-daʊ̯”, which is the Hadysh fix for “-er” in English (e.g. Runner or builder).

The English for Fascism comes from the Latin fasces, the axe surrounded in a bundle of sticks. It was a symbol of the Roman legions and was co-opted by the Italian Fascists.

I didn’t necessarily want to get this deep (shocker, I know) into a project that was already ballooning out of control in size and scope.

To make a long story short the word breaks down into:

a(~) + ja̋f + a̋nyo + d + da̋ + õ + s

“ism” + “federation” + “nation” + genitive marker + -er + object marker + plural.

Yes, that means in Hadysh both “ism” and “ist” are going to appear in the same word. It’s just another quirk of an already quirky language.

After all that, or really, during, I worked back and forth, I got to work on some killer kits.


The home kits were pretty easy, rouge and hoops are like my calling cards, getting to use the gold was a huge plus, I was happy to not always be doing “shadow” hoops. 

Awwwww yeah.

I am super pleased with how these turned out. The dual-tone of maroon and darker maroon. The sponsor in the middle was a bit of a sticking point, switching between white and the darker shade of maroon from the outside of the kit, in the end the darker shade just wasn’t legible even at this scale, so I had to switch to white, adding another color to the mix. Oh well, I think it is still clean enough to work well.

The shorts have the crest on the right pant (our left) and the player’s number (in this case “9”) on the other. I debated going with hooped socks, but I left it with just the flip over, a favorite of mine. Sleeve cuffs are hard to see, but they are the lighter shade of maroon with two gold bars through them. Breaks up an otherwise plain sleeve.


For the aways, I wanted to go for a simpler, old-fashioned look. On my league sheet, I had white kits with maroon cuffs, collar, and short bottoms. I basically planned to take that whole-sale but with a minor tweak or two.

Instead of white, I went with silver. And instead of plain, I brought back the hoops as shadows to tie it more closely with the kits above and the club’s history.

The outer edging was dropped, though, so the hoops run from side to side, top to bottom, with nothing in their way. Compare this to the home kit with the darker maroon framing the hoops on three sides. I dropped the two stripes on the cuff in favor of a solid color, and all the trim pieces are the same color as the logo, crest, and sponsor, giving the whole thing a very cohesive look. Clean, simple, classy.


Recently I’ve been doing more than just field players, I’ve wandered into the realm of keepers as well. And in the case of this project, much more into the rest of the kits as I did rear views as well, which had their own issues. Anyway, for the keeper kits, I try to go for the radical departure. For example, in my portfolio there’s a mockup for a non-existent “Grosse Pointe United” that uses blue/gold/white/black for the field players and carries that white/black over to the keeper kit only to replace the blue/gold with orange.

Here I went with green/white/black to compliment the maroon/gold/silver from above. It’s also important to note that these are the national colors of Hadyrland. On the left leg (right for us) the player number has been replaced with the branding logo. Otherwise it is a particularly “normal” kit for me. One difference is the gradient-shadow hoops in the green bits. They’re meant to be hardly noticeable, just a fine detail.


So it’s time to bring them all together and do a sort of mock-announcement. I know the next on right of a kit is sort of a thing I do, but in this case I didn’t have the time to do much else. I was thinking about trying to class it up, but how? Unfortunately my talents are still limited. Maybe in the future I can get some kits made and then shoot some “real” footage.

Ah well.

The labels under the kits read “home”, “away”, and “keeper’s”. The text in the upper right reads “Your 1423 OMD”. I liked the idea of having the crest as part of the statement, rather than above or below it.

So that wraps up this monster of a post. I hope everyone  at least found it a tad less controversial than the last one. With the DCFC season picking up and my writing still flailing around, no idea when I can get updates on my actual books and stuff, or even make sure this gets updated more often than once a quarter.

Cheers, everyone.

Forest City – Or: Breaking Comfort Zones

So this post has been a long-time coming, originally meant to be posted way back in November, I was dealing with some other issues that I glossed over briefly in a twitter thread in the context of talking about my daily word counts. Right when I was hoping to get this out, during a four-day weekend around Thanksgiving.

That didn’t happen.

Actually, thanks to some work-related stressed that spilled over into my real life, not much of anything got done. Including my normal writing or perhaps a bit of blogging.

Anyway, this has been postponed long enough.

This is a project that has been floating in the back of my mind for quite a while now, namely it is a rebranding of a team that has caught some (justified, if you ask me) ire lately due to their name and their iconic mascot: the Cleveland Indians.

For the uninformed, I am a Cleveland native and not much of a baseball enthusiast, but that itself needs some discussion. I don’t care for the actual sport of baseball – which I find a boring, tiresome drag – but I do love the traditions of baseball – which I find fascinating and lovely in a quaint kind of way, but it’s a good quaint, like finding a small midwestern town and stopping in a dinner for a shake, having a great time, and then asking yourself why you don’t do it more often.

Cleveland’s mascot, the maligned Chief Wahoo, goes back a long way. He’s, in short, a caricature of a 30s racist rendering of a native american man. And as of writing there are a lot of signs, including selective marketing images and the ever-present rumble of political correctness gone mad that Chief Wahoo is about to be binned permanently.

And good riddance, though it does mostly defeat the purpose of this post.

There’s a lot of ways to deal with this issue and Cleveland is taking pretty much the compromise route in that it’ll leave most people unhappy, but I can’t speak for the native americans in the least, but the name “Indians” is still there and there’s still baggage with that and I know for a fact that people were running out and buying up as many Chief Wahoo hats as they could so they’d have a stock to either sell when they get rare or to wear at games as long as possible.

That strikes me as a little crazy, to be so dedicated to something that is causing a peoples whose history since 1492 has been “how low can low go” feel even lower. Perhaps sports and empathy aren’t supposed to mix in the minds of many, but I’m not of the many. Sports are about empathy and community. So let’s cut to the case.

I’ve been waiting for nearly three years to have the ability to rebrand the Cleveland Indians. Three years. It came in steps. First it was finding the TIF-based images that allow me to work in a pseudo three-dimensional space. Those are the kits you see quite a bit both on this site and on many other sites. Second was finding a baseball version of that template. There’s been one floating around for a few years, and they’re gorgeous, but they’re also $80, which is a bit more than I expect to ever make from this project. But, in the last few months, one did come out, and it’s a pretty good one, cutting much of the kit into much smaller chunks than the soccer ones.

So let’s begin:


As these things usually start, some disclaimers: this is a personal project. I have not discussed any of this with anyone remotely representing the Cleveland Indians nor any group advocating the removal of Chief Wahoo. 

These are not official, sanctioned, &c &c. 


In 1868 an amateur baseball team formed in Cleveland that, following the Cincinnati Red Stockings, joined the professional ranks in 1871. This team, which would only play two seasons at the professional level, were the Cleveland Forest Citys (note: not “cities”).

They finished their existence 16-35, as this was back when teams played once per week.

This is where I am going to start – with a plucky little team in 1871. Now, Cleveland had other teams between then and now, but I wanted to focus on the Forest Citys for a few reasons:

  • The 150th anniversary of professional baseball in Cleveland is 2021, a scant three years away
  • “Forest City” provides a much more blank canvas for me
  • I wanted to focus on the tradition of baseball rather than aim for a “Disney-fied” team name like “The Spiders,” though a strong case can be made for “The Spiders” and I’d love to see someone tackle that
  • I believe that by mixing a strong heap of history into this mix, it will be better received by fans and…
  • An all new look and theme will help discourage people wearing Chief Wahoo gear to future games. Sure the die-hards will never stop, but I think that more casual fans will just buy a new cap and eventually a new shirt and it’ll be pushed out of the system quicker this way. Keeping the “Indians” name does nothing to discourage this behavior.

My starting point was the logo. If I couldn’t get that done, I’d be in trouble. I’m no good with vector programs, I’ve just never had time to sit and watch enough tutorials to get good at them, which I have a project to hopefully change that… more on that later.

So for this we went the old fashioned route. I blew up that picture above, picked the most straight-on dude, cropped everything out, and printed out a giant FC monogram. Which I traced. Three times.

Here’s the start of the initial tracing.

This is the finalized trace of the monogram. But just in case, I wanted the letters separate, so I then used my trusty clipboard to make two more tracings.

And then finally:

I scanned these in at 600dpi black/white so I could then bring them into photoshop for post-processing.

Not the best, but I’m very happy with how it came out.

The next thing I started to work on was the color scheme. I’ll admit to being ignorant to what colors the original Forest Citys wore. I probably could’ve done a deeper dive into some historical records, but in the end I knew I wanted forest green for some pretty obvious reasons. Alongside green, I wanted to stick to the traditional colors of black and white.

So I loaded up the wikipedia page for shades of green, and began to pick and choose some of my favorites, building a palette of colors to ponder over and consider. The final cut of those looked like this:

Each one had pluses and minuses, some were too blue, others too grey, some too green even.  The one that I chose is the second from the top. I think it balanced out the dark, the greens, the blues, and the greys. For those interested, it is called “Brunswick Green” and was historically used in many settings including auto racing and passenger cars on trains. It’s also sometimes called “English Green.”

So with the logo and the color scheme picked out, it was time to design some baseball ki… um… uniforms.

Going into this project, I knew precious little about how baseball uniforms “worked” (for lack of a better word). Generally, in football, you have a “first” kit, which is strongly rooted in tradition; a “second” kit, which can be rooted in tradition but more often is a canvas for creativity; and a “clash” or “alt” kit, which is almost always a departure from the norm and is intended for use either as a charity thing or in case both the first and second kits are ruled to clash with the home side. This actually came up recently: in the Hibernian vs Celtic game on the 10th, all three of Celtic’s kits were ruled to be “clashing” and they were forced to dig out last year’s charity kits in order for the game to start.

Baseball teams usually have three or four uniform choices as well. A white set for home games. A grey set for away games. And then a number of “alternative” sets that are colored and may be used whenever. There are some other rules that seem to come up. First home sets usually have the team name/logo on them. Away sets have the city name on them. And alternatives have a bit more leeway.

There’s some history behind this. Back in the day, grey sets hid dirt, so require less laundering – an advantage when you’re on the road and don’t have access to your cleaning facilities. Whites required more cleaning, but the home side did have access to cleaning facilities, so that’s not a problem.

The team vs city name basically came from fans know the home side by their name, but might not know the away side. Back before cell phones and access to a constant stream of electronically broadcast information, this was a legitimate concern.

These traditions provided an interesting design space for me to work with. And there were other concerns, thoughts, and ideas as well. For example: Pin stripes? Or no? Monogram? Or team name? “Old English”? Or Block?

If one thing is obvious so far, it’s that I chose to go with a monogram over a mascot or one of the more “modern” names that are based off some kind of [NOUN]. I wanted to go back to a very traditional looking form.

The Home Uniform

For the home uniform I went with pinstripes, which I think is probably the most controversial thing you’ll find in this post (other than the concept of entirely removing the branding of a much-beloved MLB franchise). Brunswick Green dominates the secondary features: pinstripes, undershirt, cap, belt, buttons, and stockings. Instead of a team name, I went with the monogram over the left chest. It gives a clean look that really lets the pin striping do the heavy visual lifting. White accents the caps both in the monogram and the stitching.

The Away Uniform

Brunswick Green continues to be heavily represented in the secondary features here, but the plain grey with block lettering takes over in the traditional away uniform. A few features remain from the home uniform: the piping on the sleeve roll-over for example, and the two pinstripes on the front-most belt loop. The cap is still green with the white accents, now with the block C in white front and center.

Alternative One (Color Uniform)

For the first alternative or color uniform, I went with a Brunswick Green jersey and plain, white pants. The stockings are no longer a solid green: they have black flip-overs. The piping on the jersey’s sleeves has been removed for a crisp, mono-color look. The undershirt and belt have been made black and white is more heavily featured on the cap, which instead of all green with which stitching, now has a white bill and green stitching. The monogram returns, this time in white with a black stroke.

Alternative Two (Color Uniform)

In many ways this is the inverse of the previous uniform, though the white pants remain. Undershirt and belt are Brunswick Green. This uniform has black stockings with green flip-overs, the piping on the sleeves returns in green. The buttons remain green as well. The jersey itself, though, is black with green block lettering, stroked in white. The cap is black, with a white bill and green stitching. The block C is featured here in the same green/white combo as the jersey itself. Of all the uniforms here, I have to say that this one is the most striking to me. The combination of the dark green, black, and white really comes together here. Especially the white stroke around “Cleveland” and the block C.

Over-all, I am extremely happy with how these four uniforms turned out, though perhaps I am a bit biased about that. While I have no doubt that the Indians are probably not going to do a complete rebranding this late into the argument, especially with stiff resistance from a vocal part of the fan base, it would be fantastic if they did or maybe even considered a heritage match in 2021 celebrating 150 years of professional baseball in Cleveland.

If you are one of those vocal fans, I really do hope you give this some though, or at the least, you like the designs from an abstract, objective view (rather than thinking of me trying to replace your team).

As always, I hope everyone enjoyed this rather long read and liked the designs I came up with. This has been a bit of a passion project meant to force me out of my comfort zone by designing for a sport I am not quite so familiar with, that has a few more, stricter rules, about what can and cannot go into a design.

Thank you so much. Cheers, everyone.

Photo sources (other than me for the monogram process shots):

Forest Citys: Case Western Reserve

Stock art: pixabay.com

Kleinstaaterei – NISA Joins the Mess

As is often the case German has the perfect word for any situation. Kleinstaaterei literally “small state -ery” is a great description of three things: Germany before Bismarck, the Balkans after 1992, and American soccer in 2017.

Today, as unveiled by Midfield ϕress, the giant goatsee-esque gaping hole in the American soccer “pyramid” might finally come to a close. For those not keeping up (and why would you?) the pyramid is currently very not pyramid-like as we currently have the MLS on top, both the NASL and the USL in tier two, noöne in tier three (because that fucking makes sense), and then PDL and NPSL in tier four.

(Detroit City is in that tier four clusterfuck.)

What is bringing this to a close? In an interview between Chris Kivlehan and Peter Wilt apparently it is NISA: the National Independent Soccer Association the USL to the NASL’s MLS.

Now, a large portion of the hype driving this, that pro/rel has finally reached America is cut down quick; Wilt is pretty straight-forward and honest that there is no agreement between NASL and NISA. He says (emphasis mine):

I presented the concept of the third division league to both the NASL and NPSL.  Both thought it was a great idea, and was needed.  The idea was a link league that would eventually lead to promotion and relegation.  Everyone agreed it was a great idea, but  the devil was in the details.

Over the next several months the focus became who would organize it and lead it, NASL or NPSL.  At the end of the day both said they needed to focus on their own leagues

This bit of honesty, when showmanship could’ve reigned, is one of the reasons I tend to let Mr. Wilt speak. It’d be easy to promise the sun and stars and deliver New Jersey, but expectations must be reasonable.

So what are those promises? Well, Peter continues by outlining four “pillars” of the league:

I. An affordable pro division national soccer league with regional based competition

II. An independent league with team owners controlling their markets and intellectual property

III. Our intention to incorporate promotion and relegation once the league is fully populated with 24 teams

IV. Have a strong league office with quality staff supplemented by expert consultants

I’m going to break this down from my perspective. One and two say “we’re going to mix the NASL with the NPSL” – regional with low travel costs and independent teams, no franchises here.

The first problem I see, though, is immediately followed by number three: twenty-four teams? But that’s a fourth what the NPSL boasts and about the same as the MLS. It’s also twice the current NASL roster of teams.

How is one supposed to be regional when there are so few teams? Or is the plan to have two divisions? “No” says Wilt. One. One division of eight to ten teams in 2018.

Ooookay.

However, Wilt continues, this will break into two conferences as the goal of twenty-four teams is reached.

I’m ignoring that other part for now.

Lastly, that fourth pillar is just saying to investors “we learned from the NASL blowup at the end of last season and we’re going to move forward smarter”.

Whether or not that is true has yet to be seen, but acknowledging that you have a problem is always the first step to fixing it.

Next few sections are business talk I’m not smart enough to understand.

Flip flip flip.

Wilt brings up an interesting point, which I will use to jump off to that discussion a bit earlier than planned (emphasis mine):

There is the potential that NISA could fully populate at 24 teams before NASL can populate to its goal of 20 teams.  So NISA can work as an incubator of sorts for the NASL, at first, before promotion and relegation.  A team could play for 2 or 3 years in NISA, then join NASL via expansion.  This would allow those teams to get their feet under them from a business standpoint.  They can build their fan base and revenue model while operating at a lower budget.

Well isn’t that a whole lot of common sense, but it still (wisely) skirts around the whole pro/rel issue – which I guess is the point.

I’d like to think that every team in NISA will have the ambition to either buy their way up or earn their way up through a promotion and relegation meritocracy.  Our ambition is to grow the sport.  We want to promote teams to the higher division, and eventually do that in a merit-based way in an open system, which is obviously another contrast to USL.

So the plan seems to be a sort of hybrid system, which makes sense in a round-about way. NISA will probably still be operating without paid players, hoping to maintain the ability to tap into the NCAA’s player base.

Or maybe they’re not.

A longer season might make this harder. Ten teams means eighteen home/away games. Currently DCFC plays fourteen with a pretty packed schedule that relies on favorable geography.

Will the longer season mean fewer NCAA players? Probably. In the past DCFC had issues keeping players from certain schools on board all season because they’d get called back early.

And college players travel notoriously poorly – primarily because they don’t travel so they can work a part-time job. Low-tier soccer in the US doesn’t pay. And without TV deals it probably never will improve too much. That’s what makes MLS squads so much stronger than even NASL or USL squads – there’s a huge cliff between them, a cliff bridged with money from sponsors who want national exposure on TV, not just some YouTuber’s stream.

In the end I think that will be the largest hurdle between NPSL and NISA, but not as big as a hurdle between NISA and NASL. You can’t really be semi-pro, because the NCAA basically dictates that you either pay everyone (and get no NCAA players) or pay no one (and get no professionals).

Now there is some grey room – but it is limited to those willing to essentially work two jobs to play soccer.

I’m going to move this entirely into the realm of my personal thoughts, because the interview, while well-written, starts to get into business stuff pretty quick and I want to just think aloud rather than regurgitate.

I am not convinced by this. I’m just not. If Detroit moves into this league, and given hints from Sarge on twitter, it seems likely, I am worried. I am worried about my club being dragged down by the weight of another ASL. Remember ASL? No? Well they were a thing and they were essentially dead on arrival.

On the flip side I trust Peter Wilt more than most people.

On the flip flip side, USL is also getting ready to launch its own tier three division. There are pros and cons – USL has the “B” squads and affiliate squads that can help bolster their second division in the rough early waters; however that can also stagnate interest in the league from outsiders. It also means that the USL will be running two leagues while the NASL and NISA operate independently, meaning each can focus on their own interests while only paying respect to the other.

Whether they are “relegated” is not my concern. Boot them before they drag the league under.

That sort of decentralization might be healthy and give NISA a good advantage.

I also think that NISA and Peter will attract some interesting teams that will help the league in those early water days with good, strong attendances.

Another issue, though, is that I can’t think of that many teams to make this worth-while. NISA needs to be willing to cut the chaff and not give fledgling teams enough time to sink the entire league. If a team is floundering they need to be kicked out, period. Whether they are “relegated” is not my concern. Boot them before they drag the league under.

This also means that this war between the independent leagues and the franchise leagues has no end. And the hill that seems to be the one NISA/NASL/Peter are willing to die on is this idea of pro/rel. I think, in the end, pro/rel is a marketing ploy – a tag line for the articles to employ to get more clicks. Whether in five years or ten, whether between two leagues or three, I don’t give a fuck about pro/rel as a hill to die on.

Would it be fantastic to have? Yes.

Is it worth losing DCFC for? No.

When is the league healthy enough for pro/rel? When all the sides are pro.

When will that happen? If the NPSL is involved? Never. Without the NPSL? By 2030.

In the end I don’t think pro/rel is here, I think there are ten teams taking a massive risk and I really, really hope it works out for their sake.

And where does this leave DCFC?

I still don’t think MLS will really come.

As always, we are linked to every expansion announcement since 2013 so let’s think this out.

Currently there is a push for “MLS to Detroit” from a couple billionaires. I doubt strongly they are going to actually move DCFC either because they want total branding control or because the owners will stick to their guns before selling out. Or really – both those things.

So that means a tier three DCFC potentially up against a tier one MLS team. Can Detroit support both?

I say “maybe leaning on yes?”

I still don’t think MLS will really come. I think that when Gilbert/Gores don’t get their stadium land, it’ll mostly fall through. And Gores’ recent(-ish) comment on not even wanting another team probably doesn’t sit well with Garber, who will want strong, united owners.

Moreover Garber probably wants to avoid adding a second Miami FC to the mix – with MLS Miami still looking for land on which to build a stadium, the last thing they need is two teams sitting around waiting for property. Or to finally get Miami into the queue only to refill the waiting spot.

I think Garber will aim for “easy” expansion (his comments about St. Louis reflect this) and no messy, political ones.

I think, in the end, Detroit City is moving to tier three and the city is going to remain a one-team-town.

So? Who are the other nine? Here are the ten teams I think will inaugurate Peter Wilt’s NISA (based on twitter rumor, speculation, and bullshit alone):

  1. Detroit City FC
  2. AFC Cleveland
  3. Chattanooga FC
  4. FC Buffalo
  5. A Chicago-based team
  6. An NYC-based team
  7. A Florida-based team
  8. A Mid-Atlantic-based team
  9. A Deep South-based team
  10. A Missouri-based team

Sorry that lacks any form of specificity. Cheers, everyone.

Kits and Writing.

So I got some updates for the site we’re going to skip the “it’s been a whi-” and just move on.

A lot has gone down since the last update, including getting a fancy new position at Ford which I am greatly enjoying. That has made things a bit hectic but the last few weeks have gone by lightning-quick. I am really loving it.

I’ve also made the decision to work more on professionalizing my portfolio of soccer kits. Will it lead to a profession switch? Unlikely. Could I potentially make a few bucks off it? Maybe. Honestly, I’d love to see some of my designs become real. That would be absolutely fantastic.

If you read my twitter feed, which I don’t necessarily recommend Mum, I often post stuff while working including some snapshots of a big on-going project I’ve started.

What is this project; you ask.

Well, I am doing a big world building project set in the same world as my novels. It’s a big world cup write up, and it’ll have news articles, team profiles, stadium profiles, potentially player profiles, and a whole boat load of kits. At least 96 of them: home and away for 48 teams.

I’ve already got 48 crests made, though I am not 100% happy with all of them. They were quickly thrown together with stock heraldry images from Wikimedia. Already I have about 18 kits finished, so I have quite a bit of work to do. And that’s okay, I’m planning on this taking most of the summer.

It’ll be fun and I’ll make sure to have a page to showcase it. Not sure how, but I got some ideas. I hope that everyone else will enjoy it half as much as I have so far.

There’s a lot to post and explore so I’ll only have a few slices here.

Done on a whim for Paradox Interactive (not popular with the studio manager, Johan):

A little idea for Bristol Rovers FC:

And of course Detroit City FC:

Another quick mock-up for a friend:

If you have any ideas or criticism, reach out on twitter. Currently I take requests on an impulse-based sort method. Not sure how long that’ll last, though. As the Detroit City season quickly approaches, my free time will soon dissolve to nothing.

On the flip side some news regarding my writing. I have finished the rewrites of book 2, finally! It has grown by about 10,000 words to 137,000. I think the pacing has been improved and I’m happy with it in general. It’ll definitely need a final smoothing that’ll come once I get the drafts for books 3 and 4 done, which I am going to start in about ten~fifteen minutes when I am done here!

I’m pretty much actually being productive, which is great. It feels great to be getting so much done.

Of course, as I write this, it is a quarter to eight and I’ve been trying to get this done since before four… then I got distracted with the Bristol kits.

So I am going to sign off and get back to writing. I got a long way to the expected 175,000 words of book 3.

Cheers, everyone.

Bbvvggvgvgv

So over the last two decades I’ve had to come to the slow realization that not everything might be right in my head. I am guessing those of you who exist outside of my brain have had an easier, less painful time coming to that conclusion.

There’s a particular tick in my brain that makes a lot of things hard on me, namely the inability or dogged unwillingness to divide the rhetorical from the literal.

When presented a question, conundrum, or thought experiment – even when I know it’s rhetorical, when no answer is needed or even desired – I am compelled to answer it. Compelled. As in it often mentally hurts to not answer it, so often times I just answer it because it is easier.

Easy for them to ignore.

Easier for me to then leave it in the past.

It’s not necessarily something I want to do, but I do enjoy it in that way that one enjoys indulging a crave or an addiction.  Sometimes it very much is something I want to do, want to dive into, want to think about, because it satisfies my need to think creatively and to solve problems, no matter how ridiculous.

Here’s an example.

How does one pronounce “Bbvvggvgvgv”?

Well, there’s lots of ways to deal with this. I’ve talked about conlanging quite a bit on this site so you know we have countless options on what we can do.

We can, of course, read it off like a terrible acronym. Bee-bee-vee-vee-gee-gee-vee-gee-vee-gee-vee [bi.bi.vi.vi.gi.gi.vi.gi.vi.gi.vi].

We could invert that for some silliness [ib.ib.iv.iv.ig.ig.iv.ig.iv.ig.iv].

We could try to mix up the vowels a bit in either case, but the fun begins when you ask yourself “what does ‘b’ stand for?” What does b stand for? In English it’s almost always /b/ or some variant of it. Sometimes it is silent. But it’s not like it’ll ever be /t/.

Another question we can ask is “Are there diglyphs here?” Like ‘th’ or ‘sh’ not every letter is one letter, sometimes it is two. Is ‘bb’ a glyph? What about ‘vg’? Could that be a glyph? What sound could it be? What sounds are available? I mean, there are so many more sounds available to human language than just the ones English uses. From the Parisian “guttural R” to the lateral, dental, and alveolar clicks of isiZulu; there are significantly more sounds than one might expect.

So let’s go crazy.

My first assumption, is that without vowels, bbvvggvgvgv is written in such a way that the vowels are implied, potentially in such a way to create harmony or just that they are assigned in consonant+vowel pairs.

Regardless we aren’t given much to work with so in the end we can have a bit of fun with it, right?

I divided it out like this: bb-vv-gg-vg-vg-v. My initial thinking was that the repeated b’s, v’s, and g’s could either be repeated syllables or a diglyph. In all cases I went with diglyphs. In fact, I went so far as to also make ‘vg’ a diglyph because why the fuck not? This took a rather long word and make it much more manageable.

BB was pretty easy for me, I made it /ʙɑ/. /ʙ/ is a bilabial trill, which means you’re trilling the /b/-sound. It’s certainly a fun sound to produce (it’s like a kid making engine noises by forcing extra air through closed lips and making the /b/-sound). I chose /ɑ/ (like hot) because it was easier for me to make the transition from trill to back vowel and gave the word a darker, rumblier feel.

VV was a tad harder. There isn’t a trilled /v/-sound, but there is the flapped /ⱱ/. Flapping and tapping are when one articulator (in the case of /ⱱ/, the lower lip) is forced momentarily against the other (the upper teeth in this case). These articulators are the same for /v/, but they are held together until the vowel takes over. In /ⱱ/ this contact is momentary.

I then decided that vvgg was going to be a single syllable, so for gg I wanted a nice stop sound. Stops are sounds that require the complete stoppage of air and then the release of that air, like /k/, /g/, /t/, and /d/. For gg I went with /ɢ/ but as a rule for this non-existent language, at the end of a syllable it devoices to /q/. To bridge the two I went with /ɪ/, a tried-and-true vowel if there ever was one. This is the vowel sound in “bit”.

So we’ve gotten /ʙɑ.ⱱɪq/ so far.

VG. That’s an interesting sound for sure. Vuhguh. Vuhg, Vg. Weird. Doesn’t really sound like it’d work as a bi-articulated sound the way /k/ and /s/ go nicely into the /ks/ sound in “six”. But what if there was a sound that sort of encapsulated both? V- implies a non-silibant fricative (like /v/) and -G implies a uvular sound… Luckily there are two uvular fricative sounds, one voiced and one voiceless (/χ/ and /ʁ/ respectively).  if VG is at the beginning of a syllable it must be voiced, if it is at the end it must be voiceless (as per the rules above). So it’s either /Vχ/ or /ʁV/ or potentially /ʁVχ/.

But… just maybe… it’s actually articulated in such a way that it becomes its own vowel… sneaky sneak. There’s a symbol for this: /ᵊ/ which basically means “releases on an unstressed vowel”. This is basically how anyone says a consonant when trying to isolate it from anything else. You need a vowel in some form (or a demi-vowel but we’re getting distracted).

So we’re at /ʙɑ.ⱱɪq.ʁᵊ.ʁᵊ/. Looking nice and weird.

For the final v in bbvvggvgvgv I’m going to go old school.  It’s /v/, but in this mystery language, the last syllable is devoiced and must carry the secondary stress of the word. So that makes it /f/. And for a vowel? I went with /i/ (the vowel in see).

We need stress so, my pattern is second syllable is primary and the last syllable is secondary in words with four or more syllables. That gives us: /ʙɑˈⱱɪq.ʁᵊ.ʁᵊˌfi/ and smoothing it out a bit, let’s call it [ʙəˈⱱɪ:q.ʁə.ʁᵊˌfi:].

There you go. BBvvggvgvgv is pronounced [ʙəˈⱱɪ:q.ʁə.ʁᵊˌfi:].

Cheers, everyone.

Mid-Break Editing Updates!

Subtitle: Because I know you care so much!

Happy holidays everyone who’s on today. I hope that between the dour weather, the sour political climate, and the ever increasing pressure to consume beyond your means you’ve found those things that make the season and life itself worth fighting for. Whether its family, projects, charity, art, or a pint of ale with nachos in front of the TV watching the Lions.

It is in these fleeting breaks between the so-called real-world and the world that is real to us that we must try to find our strength of character.

I have, as promised, been extremely busy this holiday. Extremely. Between the car, the house, and general adultships I have spent a great deal of time working on my novels, as I said I would just last update. I even had time to work on some kit ideas, going so far as to even consider doing some kits for my second-world fantasy series. We’ll see if that comes to light, though without logos I doubt it.

So I had a laundry list going into this break:

Finish reread of Book Two and with the first readers’ ideas considered, take copious notes for rewriting the book. 

I got this done, actually, the day before the break “officially” started. I wrote over ten thousand words on the matter, making it about the length of two or three short stories. This was the first time I had tried something like this and I think it was invaluable. I will certainly consider doing it again, though I am not sure if I’ll be as uncertain about the next two manuscripts as I have been about this one.

Book Two suffers heavily from “middle book” syndrome, though I guess it technically suffers from also being the beginning of a story.

See, like the Hobbit was a stand-alone story, its sequel (Fellowship of the Ring) was itself the first book in a longer arc, it can be awkward to shift from a complete story to one that is just the first bit in a long, long arc. While it is not my first time balancing short arcs within a longer arc, I cannot say I have had a ton of practice at it either.

Sun-King Reread and Touch Ups.

I also got through all of Sun-King its reread and touch up and while it did not take a ton of work, there were some rougher spots and a couple larger rewrites. I wouldn’t be surprised if one more is necessary, but that’ll come later. It took five days to do the reread and only meant adding 133 words, which is good because I wanted the length impact to be negligible. Now, a single number doesn’t do it justice. On my busiest day I went from -300 that day to +300 after some cuts to exposition in one place and inserting a new scene elsewhere. Most of the changes happened around the middle.

Not much to say other than I still enjoy reading Sun-King after three years and

Book Two Rewrites.

So there are a lot of notes, as I previously mentioned, and a lot of work to do. The way I do rewrites is to open a new document for the manuscript, put that on one screen, and then open up my notes and the original manuscript on the other.

Then I begin rereading, comparing the notes to what I am reading. If it’s okay, it gets copy pasted into the new doc. If it needs fixing, it gets fixed. If it needs cutting or if it just doesn’t work, I don’t copy it over.

Slowly and steadily the manuscript is rebuilt. Since I don’t retype what works the word count can shoot up extremely quickly. When I have stuff to write, either for the first time or as a rewrite, it can slow down. This way I can get ten thousand words “written” in a day based purely off word-count. Obviously I don’t write that fast. Though yesterday I did get 1,800 words actually written while watching LotR which may or may not have been a good idea.

I needed to add a whole chapter to the very front end of Book Two as part of the rewrites. This serves to get one of the inciting incidents of the three arcs in book three closer to the front then where it sits in the current draft.

All in all, I expect this process to take far longer than the break, probably a month or two at least. After that’s done I can head into writing the first draft of Books Three and Four, which I plan to do in one fell swoop, though I might stop to write a more detailed set of plotting notes for Book Four during that period.

I might also begin work on covers sooner than later.

Anyway, this is retreading older material and I am starting to get rather hungry.

Cheers, everyone.

The Unnamed Series – Updates, Ideas, Schedules, And So On…

Okay, so a few people recently have asked to be added to a small but growing list of people interested in reading my books as soon as possible.

First, let me just say that that is just fucking awesome, and I am greatly, greatly appreciative. It’s really cool that without having published a single word, people are interested. So thank you guys. Your interest and kind words a definitely a part of what keeps me trucking.

So let’s talk about where my four books are currently:

 

Sun-King

Sun-King is currently the only book that has been finished and is completely “set to go” from a writer’s standpoint. However from a publisher’s perspective it has a long way to go. It has no cover. There are some tweaks it needs to align it more closely with my current vision of the series, which has shifted slightly after certain events in American politics.

What’s that you say? Politics in a fantasy? Crazy, right? Actually not really. Art and politics are connected like conjoined twins.

Anyway, the tweaks shouldn’t be major and only take a few weeks to complete and get smoothed over. Once that is done? Well, that starts to get complicated so we’ll come back to that.

 

Unnamed Book Two

Book Two has gone to first readers and was first read. They were extremely helpful and I really appreciate the work they put into it. Were you hoping to get into that action? I’m sorry I didn’t extend that out to more people. I’ve gotten much better first reader responses from randos than from friends and family. My first drafts are usually somewhere between “written in feces on a bathroom stall” and “fanfic.net” in quality. They rarely make it out the door. My “rough draft” of Book Two was actually a second draft of a third attempt at writing it.

Maybe that’s an exaggeration…

But they are really, really rough. That’s because I usually write with only the barest outline and so I drop a lot of lines to see what sort of fish bite. I introduce a lot of plot hooks and a lot of characters to see how they all interact and how they make me feel. Then in later passes I will cut these down, expand others, and adjust as needed. Between drafts three and four of Sun-King I literally cut an entire main character, which was not easy.

Book Two is probably going to be the focus of my break, it’ll undergo some very big revisions. Right now I am looking at a net addition of two chapters though I’ve only got notes for about half of the book. I expect/want to finish that up before my break starts. Lots of minor characters cut, plot hooks cut, and hopefully draft three will be good enough for a second set of first readers, so stay prepared.

 

Night-Queen

Night-Queen is just a very, very long plot draft right now. It’s about 16,000 words long and is just a paragraph or two per chapter (I literally have a document called “fixing it all”). As it stands I predict it’ll be about 74 chapters and roughly 160,000 words long. For comparison, Sun-King is about 118,000 and Book Two is roughly 127,000 which I expect to swell to roughly 132,000 (from 127,000) by the end.

When I actually get around to writing book three, which will be sooner than later, I expect the process to be a bit faster than usual because it’ll be much more plotted out than my previous works when I’ve started them. But I don’t want to throw out any dates right now.

 

Unnamed Book Four

So Book Four is currently just a 2,500 word plot synopsis that needs to grow into a full 15,000 worder like Night-Queen. I expect, as of now, for this to be closer in length to Book Two. This’ll wrap things up for this story and these characters, but I do have more planned in this world, which I plan to explore at different time-frames and with different characters. But that’s not really for now. As of now, Book Four has had the least amount of thought put into it and that is a tad scary because I need a goal to aim for as I continue to put words down into word docs.

After revisions are finished with the first two books, I will consider finishing the plotting for Book Four before even touching Night-Queen. Not sure.

 

Publishing Side

The other issue, which I touched on briefly above, is the whole publishing side of things. Covers. Formatting for print, kindle, nook, kobo… there’s a lot to be done and I’ve got a lot to learn. I also need to set up an actual publisher webpage that doesn’t just redirect here, set up some preview copies to get some reviews in early to help release-day traffic. I need to get a twitter set up and tweeting my book and writing related news in such a way that it doesn’t pester the uninterested but is easy to find for the interested. I’ll still talk about writing here and on my personal twitter, but expect most business stuff to come from my business twitter once that gets set up.

So if you’re one of those people excited to read my book(s) this is where you’ll be the most helpful – reviews = standing, standing = sales, sales = my ego.

I’m only partially kidding there.

So there is a lot to do. A lot. And I only know how to do some of it. I’m excited to learn, though. I’m excited to get these out to you guys.

So let’s end on a mixed note. They say that telling people your goals is counter-productive. You assume that they’ll hold you to it, but that isn’t true. Instead you get the same mental release as completing it, but you haven’t completed it. And it isn’t anyone’s job but my own to get all this finished. That’s the downer.

The upper is that I think I have a schedule, in my head, and it is doable. The part I am willing to share is that once the first book is out, I’ll be releasing them in an orderly fashion every six months. The hard part is releasing Sun-King, which is contingent on the other books being nearly wrapped up. My gut says to publish it I need Book Four to be in a second draft phase.

We’ll see.

Anyway, this is a lot of time spent writing here and not in my books.

Cheers, everyone.

Mid-Autumn Review

Got a bit of time before an afternoon appointment ends up sinking a good chunk of our afternoon so I thought I’d get a rambly life review post out of the way. This is going to shift topics pretty quick so try to keep up.

Wine

After a half-year hiatus due to the move, our wine bucket is full again this time with a straight pomegranate wine. Right now the smell is amazing and fermentation is roaring ahead. I’m looking forward to the finished product.

In a week or two, we’ll get a second batch going: this time of raspberry wine. That too should be amazing.

And once winter sinks in, we’ll look at upgrading our wine cellar with some stone work and some decent racks and perhaps even a wine cooler.  We’re probably looking at doing it ourselves so expect a full how I managed it post at some point.

The House

We’re settling into the house quickly. We’ve already done a lot of work and we’re looking at getting the roof fixed first thing is spring. We also looked into either doing siding or remodeling the bathroom, but those ended up falling out of our price range. Too bad, both of those things can seriously go with an overhaul.

We’ve almost entirely unpacked as well, notable exceptions are bags of stuffed animals in the bedroom as well as organizing our clothes. Plus there is a giant tupperware  container in our office plus a box that needs to find a home. The office is now fully equipped for coffee production, freeing up much needed space in the kitchen (an issue that came very much to light when depipping ten pounds of pomegranates.

Otherwise we’re settled and extremely comfortable. The benefits of living so much closer to work and friends has already paid off, plus the reduced cost from the mortgage every month is helping as well. Walking is way, way up thanks to the myriad of stores and restaurants near-by, and we’ve signed up for fencing classes, our first since uni, so hopefully I can burn this damn beer gut away.

Writing

Been getting a lot done on the writing front, even if I haven’t been talking about it.

I am not participating in NaNoWriMo, so don’t expect word counts. I do plan to get some editing done, but there may or may not be some huge overhauls in my plans for the coming year/year and a half.

Brigid and I have been talking timing and publish for my four novels, which will either fall under her pre-existing company or more likely my own that I will set up when the time comes. The current plan is a release schedule something like this:

Sun-King: Q2 2018
Book 2: Q4 2018
Night Queen: Q2 2019
Book 4: Q4 2019

None of that is cemented, in fact I think it is safe to say the release schedule will likely get pushed back even further.

Why?

Well I’m a slow writer, mostly. I wanted book 3 (Night Queen) to at least be written (first draft) before I pull the trigger on publishing Sun-King. But Brigid very honestly pointed out that at the rate I write, I might want book 4 (is it strange I have the most trouble coming up with titles for the even numbers?) in the first draft stage and book 3 essentially wrapped up from the writing perspective.

I might plot out and write books 3 and 4 here in the next year – one giant binge of writing. Then I’ll have a first reader or two go through all four books and realign the consistency of the tone and action. That way I don’t have to keep going back to Sun-King when I make adjustments in Night Queen’s plotting.

It’s a lot of work, and the encouragement I get from you guys is, and always has been, great.

So thank you very much.

Kit Nerd

I’ve still been kit-nerding it up lately, messing around with sponsors and even going as far as to look beyond my normal front sponsors, manufacturer, and experimenting with a bit of color.

puma_strohs

A clean-ish rouge kit sticking on the piping theme from the official kit nerd post. In this series I went with Stroh’s as the official sponsor, following the tradition of teams like Liverpool and Newcastle who proudly wore their favorite session beers on the front of the logo. With this particular kit the dark red above the black collar isn’t the back of the shirt – it’s actually an inset of the front, so the collar is a rather traditional cut while also giving the effect of wearing an undershirt even when you’re not.

puma_strohs_plain_w_gold puma_strohs_plain_w_gold_bired

A bit of a cleaner design, in my opinion. A minimal amount of gold breaks up an otherwise plain rouge kit (top) or divides the rouge from a darker shade (bottom). I like that the Puma and DCFC logos follow the swoop, gives it a more balanced effect then when used above. I like them both quite a lot, with perhaps a slight preference to the plain one on top. The Stroh’s logo ads a lot of colors but if done right (and DCFC has been doing their sponsors right – with transparencies instead of giant bounding boxes) it still looks good. In fact the red and gold in the logo are really great with the rest of the get up.

puma_strohs_plain_w_blue puma_strohs_plain_w_blue_bired

Now on twitter I mentioned these would probably be a bit controversial (though that has so-far proven untrue). Instead of gold accents, I went with the blue from the Stroh’s logo, something unheard of for DCFC. I want to go on record saying I prefer the gold more and that I don’t actually want to see blue added to our kits, but it was a fun little experiment which I think looks good. In this case, though, I think the Rouge – Blue – Dark Rouge works better (instead of the plain one as was the case above). Maybe the blue stands out better with the defined line between the reds and isn’t lost as much.

Anyway, that is a life update. Cheers everyone.

Thoughts on Moderating

Banned someone the other day.

I do it quite often, actually, and though it seems almost petty to think about, I often remove someone’s ability to see a whole website more often than most people. I talk about moderating on and off, mostly because I am behind an NDA and get too much into details like the system we use or who gets what.

The identity of the guilty is generally a private thing, known only to those involved.

That’s okay, I prefer it that way. I prefer that no one has to know. At least once I’ve infracted someone I knew IRL without knowing it at the time.

At least once someone used my website to reach out to me to protest a ban.

If you are reading this and contemplating the same, I’ll save you some time – don’t. Just… just don’t.

Moderating is an interesting profession, all things considered. It certainly gives you an insight to human psychology that I think would even make most retail people blush. Sometimes someone gets back to you with such pure, unadulterated hate that even after more than a decade of life on the internet I pause and read it a second time to see if I got it the first.

I am digging through 117 pages of 25 PM threads each right now for a gem I hold closely.

“No one cares you stupid faggot. Kill yourself.”

What did I do or say to get this? I reminded him that the rules require users to bring up issues with the staff privately.

Over the years I’ve been told to suck a lot of dicks. Been called the n-word more times than I am comfortable with. “Faggot” is a popular one. Often users will offer to rape my significant other or allude that they’ll rape me. Few guess that I am married so they usually refer to a “girl friend”.

Racism and homophobia play key roles in the insults thrown at me, though a large portion of our user base (and certainly the more… colorful segments) are from eastern Europe where it seems those two are go-tos for insulting the powers that be.

A lot of people, a lot, reach for the “freeze peach” card. To them free speech is some universally guaranteed commandment over all other rights. It supersedes property. It supersedes national boundaries. It supersedes human dignity. This is the internet and god dammit they can call whoever they want an n-word and tell them to kill themselves and there is nothing we can legally do.

Other than ban them.

Apparently I am a wanted man in Latvia, or so some freeze peach homophobe would lead me to believe.

Anyway. I’m getting side-tracked with belly-aching. I banned a man the other day. I’m sure that’s the story you all want to hear. It isn’t always easy. Sometimes you feel bad. Sometimes you need to tell yourself that their sob stories are lies. That they stole it because they’re cheap. Because they don’t value the work of others. Because the truly hate the idea of both supporting your company as much as going without a game.

A certain level of cynicism is necessary when dealing with people on the internet because there is no way to validate any claim they make. I had one user go as far as to offer to send me [nude] pictures proving they were trans after they were infracted for insulting trans people.

A) That doesn’t undo your insults.

B) I can google trans before and after pics too.

You eventually just stop believing people. Everything becomes a cover. Everyone is lying. Everyone has some terrible seed of vile hatred inside them waiting for anonymity.

Everyone is ready to make a false equivalent.

“How is ‘Kebab’ racist? I can call a Frenchman a ‘baguette’.”

I don’t know, maybe because one comes from a video demanding genocide? I mean, if we’re going to get technical it’s because the rules say so? Perhaps that you rely so heavily on racist monikers should be something you should do some soul searching on instead of bitching to me for calling you out on it.

No one ever trolls, either, I find. I know because nearly every, single, poster I’ve infracted for trolling replies back within a day to tell me that they weren’t actually trolling and in fact it was the other guy who was doing all the trolling. They didn’t mean to suggest that they were mentally deficient and that their opinions were akin to the holocaust.

Honest.

Protip, wrestle with pigs for too long and bystanders will have trouble telling the difference.

Anyway, banning. I banned a man the other day for pirating. Sometimes it is well earned. Some go out in a blaze of glory, admitting that the stole everything and saying that they’d do it again too because we’re evil/libtards/gay/white guilters/whatever fascist bullshit catchphrase is on everyone’s tongue that week.

Those ones are easy.

Cathartic even.

This was a kid from Lithuania. Said he couldn’t afford the game and that it was hard to come by. The error he was having made it extremely obvious he had pirated it and then he admitted as much to the other users. So I banned him and swept it all under the rug.

Gone.

Poof.

Isn’t much left to talk about. But it made me think. Made me think of what we do and why. With nearly 3000 PM threads in my inbox I can only remember one “thank you”. One. That’s it. Lots of people telling to kill myself, or hoping that I or someone I love is raped. One thank you.

Sometimes I wonder why I do what I do. Wonder what I get out of it all. I must get something out of it because I keep going back, keeping fighting our fight.

Maybe I just want to see a second “thank you”. Maybe I get a sick pleasure from the power and pain. Maybe it feeds a martyr complex. Maybe it fulfills my desire to feel like I’m doing a small part to combat the vile trolls that grow in the internet’s dark corners. It’s probably a combination of all that and some other little ticks that I can’t think of right now.

I have no desire to stop, really. In the end, in the end I enjoy the comradery with my fellow moderators. I enjoy thinking I am doing good. And yes, to a small extent, I enjoy the shrieking death throes of trolls, pirates, and fascists as they flail powerlessly at the keyboard. Calling me all number of horrible things. Threats and slurs are all they have in their arsenal.

 

It’s only weakness. An utter lack of agency to stop the inevitable. A refusal to lay in the bed one made.

In a sad, or perhaps glorious, way it makes me stronger. Makes me a better person.

Maybe that’s why I stick to it.