Sunday, August 7, 2016

Aiden and Rosekin Bardolf...

Origin Story for both my wife, and myself in Amtgard Persona... originally published in forums in 2000.

Aiden was born of a gypsy and a woodsman, and raised in the Valleys of
the Everwarm Springs, deep in the Southern Evergreen Forests. He was
raised with a healthy respect for magic (mother was an alchemist) and
taught the splendor and strength of nature. Rosekin (my future wife)
was born of an Arms Dealer in the same area, and we grew together as
childhood sweethearts.

However this romance was short-lived, as the Arms Dealer moved to the
war-torn high plains of the west. Unbeknownst to Aiden, the arms dealer
became quickly wealthy, and proclaimed himself a Duke.

When Aiden had achieved manhood he was granted a name. As is the custom of
his Mother's tribe he was named based upon his personality. He enjoys the
company of few, trusted less, and between his trusty axe, a bit of
thread, and a flint-stone, could live for months at a time without the
company of others... thus they named me Bardolf... the Axe Wolf. Thus
named he decided to seek out his childhood love to ask for her hand.

Having the resources of his mother's tribe, he asked a seer to help find
her. The old woman did help, telling Aiden that he would need to recover
the Crystal Chalice before he could win her hand, and that then she could
be found in the high plains, when he was ready to find her.

The Chalice was difficult to recover, and that story shall be saved for
another time.

Upon his arrival at in the High Plains, Aiden discovers that the Arms
Dealer is trying to legitimize his claim to nobility by marrying his
daughter into the royal family. However, not everyone likes this idea...
and to try to stop the wedding (that Aiden was almost a week late to stop
himself) someone had kidnapped the Arms Dealer's only Daughter. Her five
brothers, though competent warriors and mercenaries, had not been able to
track her kidnappers.

Aiden offered his services to track the kidnappers, and reminded the So
called Duke of his woodland skills, tracking, and basic survival. All he asked
for in return was the use of a sure footed steed, a pouch of supplies
(rope, dried meats, etc.) and repairs to his weapons. The 'so called' Duke
insisted instead upon replacing weapons with the finest from his arsenal,
and agreed to the rest.

However during his stay Aiden noticed that his chalice was changed... a
subtle change in the shaping. It seems the 'So Called' Duke had it
'replaced' with a good copy, and was trying to trade the original as a
bride price to marry in one of his sons to one of the nearby Royal Families.
Not being happy with being duped, and with his basic knowledge of alchemy,
Aiden set several small reactions into place. Thus by midday after leaving the
'So Called' Duke's Palace (with both chalices),he noticed the smoke on the
horizon behind him. The 'so called' Duke's Palace had been built of
cedar... which makes a wonderful bonfire... After all the name his
alchemist mother had given him in his youth 'Aiden' means the Fire

Tracking the kidnappers was easy, as they had never tried to hide their
trail... they thought the wind upon the plains would be good enough. The
gypsy seer's words came true, and the power of the chalice was indeed
what was needed to achieve the girl of his dreams. You see the chalice's
power is simple, the bearer may not be attacked, and may not attack
anyone. Aiden used the power to it's full advantage, trapping his
opponents, and eventually recovering his love.

Having burned our bridges (or Palaces as it were) with her family, they
continued north until they were far away and found a community just
rising itself out of the wilderness. We live just outside this new 'civilization.'
Here, the lighted Chalice (or the chalice and the flame, depending
upon your point of view) became our family Crest.

The winters in Astral Winds may be a bit harsher...
but there are still hot springs and evergreens, so together we
make it their own warm home.

Notes on the Chalice-- it was approved back then as a non-combat artifact- And is the core to the safety  of our Household- It's effect are tied to old class abilities/effects... when a light is placed inside the chalice, everyone inside the lighted area is under the effect of a Monk-Like 'Sanctuary' effect- further, anyone outside the area effect is dissuaded from attacking by means of an Expanded Area equivalent of the then Scout's 'Camouflage' Ability... thus without 'Tracking' the people inside could not be found, and the people inside could not harm one another.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Devil's Rock - a movie rant

The Devil's Rock, a 2011 horror film was recommended to me by the Netflix AI.

(Fair use image for review-Movie Cover)

So, while I appreciated the story, and enjoyed the twist... I still found the film lacking. For want of a couple of pieces of wood, the movie was lost. Let me explain... and I'll try to avoid too many spoilers.

    The film is a WW2 period horror, set just before D-Day in the Channel Islands. It ties into the Historic Witch Trials, and thus a supposed strong Occult base that the Germans are attempting to modify/weaponize. This is stumbled into by a small commando team setting up a distraction away from the true D-Day launch. 

  So far, so good... the expected chaos insures, quickly reducing the cast down to three players. The story had obligatory mayhem (enemy of my enemy, but also my enemy,whom I can't trust, but need to help me.) And a few cool nerd references, (like named 'demons' from the Cthulhu Mythos,) and believable and consistent occult rules/rituals. 

   And the sets were 'almost' great. They used some of the existing locations of old German fortifications. Which they dressed with realistic looking furniture, and period appropriate lights, radios, and posters. However, they either missed, or couldn't put in a simple set of handrails. Even just 2 six foot 2X4's to set into the existing wall hooks would have made the sets believable. This lack destroyed the suspension of disbelief, even before introducing the supernatural evil character. 

  The story does work, and the end twist feels cool, and lends the ending a feel of disturbed 'was anyone actually good?' feeling. That ending works well for the story, but to accomplish it the Allied Soldier would need precognition and to reach from one side of the room to the other without moving his feet. But, I think, if I had not already been annoyed at the set, I would not have noticed the displaced reality of where the chain was locked.

  So, in short, I thought is a good attempt at a smart horror film... 
Till next time-

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Calypso Farm Spin In

Well, actually it was an open house. But my wife and I were invited as part of the 'Fiber Arts' section.

First,  Calypso Farm is a non-profit, educational farm based in Ester, Alaska. They showcase and teach classic skills based on eco-friendly farming.

This last spring, we atteneded their 'Sheep Shearing and Wool Day.' I had not seen a sheep shearing, and we have several fleeces that need to be cleaned (so we were hoping to learn a trick or two to make that easier as well.) And of course, we bought spindles and spun.

This led to us being invited to the open house (mid-summer) to be part of the Fiber Arts demo. And so, for a few hours today, my wife and I showed off both drop and supported spindles. I even brought out my kick spindle (shown above) just to have something different.

 The other invited guests showed off a couple of different styles of wheels, and one guest had a backstrap loom. There was a bin of odds and ends of wool, a couple of flick carders, and some 'stick style' mini drop spindles for people to try. All in all, a nice overall demo.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Game Developments - The 'Woof' Moment (Part 2)

So to recap,the party has figured out the arena, and in doing so have unintentionally acquired an NPC. This little dog named 'woof' eventally became a respected member of the party, with even the gruff Dwarf calling her "the world's smallest war dog."
    This new group dynamic 'testing' seems to have gone well, thus the game was building into a campaign. So I needed to continue my 'Worldbuilding.'
    My style of Worldbuilding is a series of outward spiraling idea builds. I usually start with a few basic sites (taverns, guild houses, maybe a blacksmith, and a few quick adventure hooks) and  then let the play inspire touches of unique interactions. Those interactions inspire my behind the scenes expansion of the community, while my larger world grows as it occurs.
     I try to keep building  the outlying world ahead of the party, but take into account the things they have done, and the things they leave to others. In this way the realm is constantly evolving, as a living world. Other parts of the world are built as inspiration  strikes, as tangents to the spiral build... so circles and tangents.
      In this case,  I started adding arenas to nearby sites, and thinking about how those sites would be influenced. 'Advancement' via skills or ability enhancement could wildly shake up a more traditional fantasy racial society, so I began building a whole  pocket society of Tribal Champion style of Law. It was loosely  based on a cross between  classic chivalry, and the Battle Tech 'Clan' laws.
     I also worked out several 'types' of arenas. The first obviously  gave bonus from the loser to the winner. Others gave bonuses based on skills used, and some only gave punishments  for losses. And all were magically linked, allowing for easy scrying... as a magical sports and government channel.
      And the campaign  turned into a sports-movie  underdog story, with the party eventually challenging through the arena legal system for rulership of this pocket realm. This also led to a 'Test of Faith' for the party cleric  as the arena changes  disrupted the 'purity  of  nature' and made  the arena  'champions' into 'abominations. And 'abominations against nature' (which she now had become) are against her god's teachings. And even with the eventual BBG (Big Bad Guy) who had built the arena system as a slight XP leach conduit to power his attempt to ascend to godhood...

The original idea had been loosely based on a 'Hollow Earth' style pocket realm (think Land of the Lost,) with the eventual  goal for the party to try to close the link between the realms. After exploring and looting a bit would they would find out that to close the pocket realm (and avert major home realm disaster) they would have to gather and replace all the 'treasures' looted from the pocket realm before they could fix the break between the realms.
        All of these changes came about from the question, "You aren't going to kill my dog, are you?" -- Now known in my family and local gaming community as 'The Woof Moment.'

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Unvented Hungarian Loom (Part 1)

Well credit where it is due.
       First, the term "unvented" is from Elizabeth   Zimmermann who originally used it to describe 'coming up with a way to do something that is new to you, but you are sure has been done before.' It has also been used to descibe 'recovering lost technology or techniques,' which is how I'm using it now.
       Second, the book "Weaving is for Anyone" that I purchased at a thrift store. This book had an illustration  and listing for a Hungarian  Loom. It was descibed as portable, and able to make long bands. And "...The loom is a simple one, just a board with a bar at the end making a T shape, and nails on three sides. The directions for it's use are easy to follow, but lengthy, and space does not permit including them."

       This intrigued me, and the design looked easy to build, so...

...I began building. I took a short length of Alaskan Birch, and re-attached the cut end at the ninety degree angle to make the T shape. This is then re-inforced  with four small angle brackets. 
   But, somewhere  along the way, I misplaced  the  book. So, working  from a mis-remembered version of the illustration, I came up with this variant.

    The hooks hold up to three heddle bars, warp streached from the pin ends into the holes through the tee, and then tie back across the warp bar. The weaving can be advanced to the pins as they are bent back to hold the  new working warp area.  But this is nothing like the original illustration.
    So, now I have another 'new' loom, but not one in the Hungarian  design. Nor am I sure even how that design is supposed to work.
     A friend and I puzzled over the idea of the design, and came up with a few variations. However, they are variations on warp tension and advanacment, not the actual  weaving  technique. 
      So, as this project continues I will be building and weaving on at least a couple more 'unvented' looms. But for now, I have a test weaving to do on this one...

    So, a day later, and after testing.... a couple of notes. First, there is no need for the multiple small holes in the tee... a single large or two large holes would be fine.  Second,  weaving needles, not heddles, works just fine. Third, the hooks hold a bar to keep the working area above the backboard. 
     The weaving is weft faced, and does move (advance) as expected. So, this is kind of an anti-inkle loom. Overall, not as expected, but a successful  experiment.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Introducing 'Whit Worth' a recycled material loom.

I was inspired by an article (okay two articles, really) in Handwoven  Magazine   [March/April 2015] about Sakiori Weaving. What inspired me wasn't the suggested projects (although the silk scarf does look fun) but rather the historical background.

The thing that really stuck in my imagination, was the size of the average household loom. The idea that an eight to twelve inch wide warp, and weaving small pieces that are patchworked together made me question myself. Specifically, "Why not try it?"

Now, I should add in that recycling is fairly big up here, so much so that our local 'transfer sites' ( landfill drop off points) have a reusable item station - a platform for people to trade / recycle / reuse items with life left to them.  There are always T-Shirts there, so I figured that it could be a starting project for either my Tapestry pin loom, or my Cheater's Loom (the Salish's name... yep, we name lots of our stuff.)

But I didn't just find T-Shirts. I found some dowels from a shelf decoration, and a child's wooden puzzle, and even some cup hooks. In my mind, it was an unassembled Tapestry Style Lap Loom, just waiting to be discovered. I immediately thought "Well, I'm using recycled  materials, why not a recycled loom as well?"

So after a bit of trimming on the cup hooks, curing out the puzzle backing, and assembly/sanding... it was ready to try.

It worked, but it also felt a bit too lightweight. It flexed a bit much, especially when advancing the warp. After a couple of pieces  I was beginning to worry that I might break the loom while using it.

I decided that I should either reinforced the frame somehow, or find a way to make advancing the warp easier. I also wanted to stay with using all recycled materials.

A couple days later I found a discarded small piece of PVC piping. It was long enough to trim two pieces, one for each end of the loom. Then, by cutting open the side of each piece, I was able to pry it open and slide it on to the wood frame in such a way as it pinches the frame with the cut end. This make either end of the frame have a rounded smooth edge that advances the warp easily, and divides the pressure across the frame more evenly.

So now the loom works beautifully, and makes small strips that can be assembled into larger items. So, as I mentioned, lots of our items areally named... (sometimes puns, or obscure refrences) and this loom is no exception. Thus, it is named 'Whit Worth' as in a whit- the smallest part, and thus it is Worth every penny I didn't spend (recycled) to get this loom that makes the smallest parts of projects.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Building Looms, Beating an old Path.

      A few years  ago  my wonderful  wife  bought me anow Ashford rigid heddle  loom  for Christmas. At the time, I  made one scarf, and wasn'the very happy  with  the  resuly. I followed  the suggested length and width, and felt like the resulting scarf was just a bit small. (And that was before it got accidentally  run through the laundry  and felted.)
     I decided to give it another go, and decided that I should 'fix' some of  the bits I could. Like doubling the width to near the max for that 12" loom. And trying  a pattern, rather than just seeing how a verrigated  yarn would pool. And as to  length... well Tom Baker was my first Doctor, so I put as much yarn into the warp as this loom could hold.
    As the loom is portable  I took it all over town, to coffee shops, the library, and  anywhere else that I  planned to waitvarround. The result was a lovely 11' 2" houndstooth  scarf, and a nickname for the loom of "Traveller." It also resulted  in  my realization that I really enjoyed weaving.
      So,  I decided to try a different style of weaving... and bought a secondhand tapestry loom.  I found that it is a bit easier to warp, as it is a much simpler loom-basically a 4 (or 6) foot pin style loom. But it was also a bit fiddly keeping the tension uniform and I did not like the rug  yarn that came with it. So, it had just sat idle since I abandoned and removed the first attempted rug.
      I went back to Traveller for a few more projects, then it occurred to me that while most commercial looms are out of my price range, I do have some woodworking  skills.  And several widely different looms are relatively  simple in design... so why not try building a few? After all, I build and use and sell spindles, so this is a logical progression, right?
   The jump start to this was finding a crib that was on it's way to the landfill, that had massive rounded to rails in the short sides. It took me only a moment's flash of inspiration to remember the look of a Salish style  loom... and an evening's  work while watching a DVD (I am so far behind in Game of Thrones) to disassemble  and rebuild the crib into a loom. It is roughly a cross between a Navajo and a Salish loom,  and built for indoor use, so a bit smaller and with legs that will soon have feet. With an old ash broom handle  for the crossbar.

By putting the rounded ends outward top and bottom, the warp can be rolled around the loom giving a working area of almost 8 feet long. With the working width of almost 4 feet, this should be plenty of warp to make either rugs, small blankets, or even core fabric for garments.
      And again, it was fun to build. So it has started me on a path of building some looms. I expect most will be of the more 'primative' designs, as my engineering skills are more geared to design than manufacture.  I'm not sure where this will lead, or how many I will build, but 'twill be an adventure.
      Since this one is built from a crib, and to 'crib' something  is to cheat by copying my wife  came up with this one's name. It is now known  in our household  as the 'Cheater's  Loom.'