Friday, December 21, 2007

Traders, Raiders and Pirates

When we saw Pirates of the Caribbean, Dead Man's Chest I got an itch to play a pirate game. I found Sea Rats! It looked interesting but I wanted the ability to build my own ship and work with wind.

I have since looked at several other games and for Christmas we bought all the Pirates movies and Pirates the game. None of the games I've seen take wind into account. That means no tacking, wearing or gaining the weather gauge. You might as well be playing a WWII naval battle.

The result is that I wrote my own rules. I combined several rules I have seen from pirate and other games. I call the game Traders, Raiders and Pirates (TRP). The rules are here in this post.

These rules have not been play tested, but you are welcome to try and let me know how they worked. I'm still trying to figure out what to do for a map board and ship models (may use the cardboard models that come from the Pirate game).

[EDIT: The original rules have been removed from this post and replaced by new rules on the following post]

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Poll - Organizer

Our last poll, "What Should We Call the Day After Thanksgiving?" only got two votes (one of them mine) so I'll just have to call it Retail Friday from now on.

Our new poll is about organizers.

How do you organize your day; how do you plan your life?

I use a Palm based PDA (Palm TX) and I'm quite happy with it. For Christmas, I'm going to get a keyboard for it and an FM transmitter. The FM transmitter will let me use my TX as an MP3 player in the car.

I actually use my PDA everyday. I use it for work in several ways. I use it to organize my daily personal schedule, to do list and contacts. I also use it for writing and I have songs on it.

I recently purchased for my eldest Propette a Franklin day planner. She uses it constantly.

Mrs. Prop (my wife) uses loose paper on a writing pad for her planning.

Mrs. Prop (my mom) uses a pocket calendar (last I checked).

What do you use?

Monday, December 10, 2007

What is an FRG?

I have become involved in the Family Readiness Group for the Headquarters, Headquarters Company, 108th Sustainment Brigade. This is the unit from which I retired in May.

A portion of the Headquarters of the 108th Sustainment Brigade has been mobilized and will very shortly be deployed to Iraq. That is really why I volunteered to help out. I felt a little guilty that it would have been me to go if I had stayed in a few more months. Also I know that my family got no support while I was deployed in Afghanistan. I wanted to correct that.

In fact, when I volunteered to help in anyway they needed, they volunteered me as the Group Leader (a rather intense job with orders and a letter of appointment). I'll do my best and anyone I know that wants to help will be welcomed warmly.

But, what is an FRG (Family Readiness Group) and what do they do?

Well, in theory, every unit should always have an FRG. it should be the official support for families of service members, both in the Regular Army and in the Reserves (the Army Reserves and the National Guard are both, and collectively, refered to as the Reserves). In practice it is more common to see an FRG started up for a unit deploying and not continuing much after they get back.

In units based in rural communities I have seen a very close knit family organization, but that was because most of the members of the unit were literally family.

In units without this natural support it can be very important for the FRG to function well.

FRGs provide a clearing house for information for service families. They also provide a source of mental and spiritual support. We have monthly informational and social meetings planned for the year that the unit will be deployed. We are also building a "Phone Tree" so that each family will get a call at least once a month from someone who has information and is ready to provide support (or at least get a request for support started in the right direction).

Deployments can be as hard, or harder on families as on the service members themselves. Support an FRG if you can. For more information about the HHC, 108 SB FRG, drop me a line at

An FRG in action.
Santa Claus this year is letting his reindeer have a rest, arriving at his appointed rounds in a Bradley Fighting Vehicle. Here, he stops at Riverfront Park in downtown Spokane, Wash. Operation Spokane Heroes hosted the holiday party for Families of deployed servicemembers, who met Santa, rode a carousel and had pizza. (Photo by Airman 1st Class Jocelyn A. Ford)

Monday, December 03, 2007

Love is Higher than the Faet

Part Two of the Courtship of Princess Gelachien

Prince Audie went home to the kingdom of Slojia after Princess Gelachien of Ontia refused to let him court her. When he arrived at the castle his father, King Trordar could see right away that Gelachien had sent him away. Trordar was very very angry.

He had lost the Battle of the Whombae River to Gelachien and was forced to sign the Treaty of the Great Bridge. A few years later he lost Southern Slojia to Prince Lang’s father who made himself King Lagan I. After that he lost the western shore of the Thirae River to Feren’s father, King Ferris I. This last insult was too much for Trordar and he decided to take revenge.

Trordar called for his generals and started to make plans to attack Ontia. Audie spoke up and reminded him that the Treaty of the Great Bridge did not allow him to attack Ontia.

“We must get revenge against this Princess!” Trordar roared. “She’s not even a real princess; they just made her princess to make me lose Ontia.” He slammed his great fist on the table and sat down to think.

“West Iurnia! That’s it. If it’s Prince Feren that she wants then we will make his kingdom pay. Make plans to invade West Iurnia.”

Meanwhile, Princess Gelachien waited for a reply from Feren. She had invited him to a picnic so that she could tell him that she was sorry for testing him and to try to start courting him. She would walk back and forth on top of the walls of her castle in the capital city of Liitownyn. Sometimes she would walk with her wizard, Shorfly or sometimes with the Prime Minister, Melbur.

One cloudy day she was walking with Melbur. The ocean breeze blew her long dark hair in her eyes and she wiped it away.

“Why hasn’t he answered me Melbur?” She asked the old Prime Minister.

“I don’t know highness. I know you angered him with your test, but I would have thought that he would have calmed down by now. Maybe he isn’t the kind of man you want after all if he gets this angry and doesn’t forgive.”

“Maybe your right Melbur, but if he isn’t the one then who? Audie, Trev, Lang?”

“Well you did say that you liked the way Trev played piano.”

“Yes and he did tell such funny stories, but he was so short.”

“And you said that he was greedy.”

“Yes, but maybe he wouldn’t be so bad. He could buy me nice jewelry.” She laughed a little and spun around. Maybe Prince Trev wouldn’t be so bad. Maybe she could send him an invitation.

Just then Shorfly ran up the stairs and called to them. “Your highness, I have just received word that the army of Slojia and King Trordar is on the march.”

“Trordar is going to attack Ontia? Why?” Gelachien asked.

“No, Princess. He is attacking West Iurnia. He means to make Prince Feren pay for being chosen by you.”

“Oh dear. That’s why Feren hasn’t replied to my invitation. How strong is the army of Slojia?”

Melbur said, “They’re very strong. They’re much stronger than anything King Ferris can put together.”

“Then we must help them.” Gelachien said.

“But how princess?” Shorfly asked. “We can’t attack Slojia because of the Treaty of the Great Bridge. We can’t get to West Iurnia without crossing Slojia.”

“Yes we can. We could sail south past Slojia and Southern Slojia, but then we would have to sail again north into Oolpao Bay. No one has ever sailed that far without putting in to shore at some point. Surely they would see our ships and wait for us at any port we might try to put into.” Melbur said.

“There is another way.” Gelachien said. “We can go over the mountains.”

“Go over the Ianduid Mountains? But that would mean that we would have to either go over Mount Faet or go around north of it. That would mean going into Urth land. That is far too dangerous.” Shorfly said.

“But it is possible.” Gelachien smiled.

“Yes, it’s possible, but it would take too long. We could never march our army over the mountains and get to West Iurnia in time to help.” Melbur said.

“We’ll only take the cavalry. Assemble the troops; we’ll leave first thing in the morning.” She ran to the steps with her dress flowing behind her.

In the morning Princess Gelachien rode out in front of her cavalry on a great white horse in shiny steel armor encrusted with pink quartz, emeralds and diamonds.

“I have sent a message by crow to King Ferris and Prince Feren that you are coming to help.” Shorfly said when he walked up to see them off.

“Good.” Gelachien said.

“If you don’t mind my saying so highness, that is very fancy armor you are wearing. Don’t you think it’s a bit much?”

Gelachien smiled. “The jewels can be removed. If we run into any Urts maybe we can pay them off.” She laughed, threw a cloak over her armor and was off.

The horse soldiers of Ontia were not very many, but they were very good. They rode west from Liitownyn on good roads leading off to the mountains rising in front of the new sun.

They rode all day through fields of wheat and corn. By nightfall they just reached the foothills of the Ianduid mountain range. They made camp and slept a good night under a star-filled sky. They woke before dawn and ate their breakfast cold in the saddle.

The second day brought them up into the forests that covered the mountains like a blanket. It was quiet and cool under the trees while the sun dappled down. The road was steep but well marked. They made good time and rode until after dark.

Quietly they made camp, putting up tents and starting fires. Their supper was light and quick. Before going to bed Gelachien met with her General, Skor over a map.

“General Skor, we are here, right?” The princess pointed to a place on the map. The General came around the table and looked closely.

“Yes. Tomorrow we will turn southeast and follow the ridge. Does your highness wish to pass Mount Oeng on the North or South side?”

“We must pass to the north. If we passed to the south we would be too close to Slojia.”

“As you wish highness. I know a good road just here.” He showed her on the map.

“Good. We must go as fast as we can. We can’t waste any time.”

General Skor said nothing.

“What is bothering you General?” Gelachien asked.

“How will we get around Mount Faet? Both the North Slope and the south slope are impossible to pass. The only road goes far to the south and right into Slojia. We could try to find a road to the north, but that would take us into Urth. Who knows what trouble we will find there and how long it will take?”

Gelachien placed her hand on his thick strong hand. “We will find a way General. We must.”

The meeting ended and they all went to sleep. They woke in the morning before sunrise again. They again ate a cold breakfast as they rode their horses along the ridge of the mountains.

High up on the mountain ridge they were in pine forests that rose thick and green all around them. They smell was strong and sweet.

Just before the sun set on them again they caught their first sight of the great mountain Faet. It looked like just a small white cone above the green pines. General Skor rode up beside the princess.

“Tomorrow we will reach the mountain.” He said. “Do you have a plan highness?”

“If we can’t go around it we will have to go over it.” She said with her eyes up and her lips tight.

“Over it highness? Do you have magic that you are not telling me about?” He asked.

“We will see tomorrow General. I will not let a mountain stand in my way.” She looked him straight in the eye and he could ask her no more questions.

They made camp. It was so late that they didn’t have time to cook dinner. They ate it cold. Everyone felt that time was running away from them. They were all eager to reach West Iurnia, but no one was as eager as Gelachien herself. She sat up all night in her tent. She barely slept.

They left as soon as it was light. They kept traveling through pine forests. Sometimes they would go over the top of a smaller mountain and the peak would be bare of trees. The grassy spots on the tops of the mountains were called balds. Whenever they rode into one they could see Mount Faet growing ahead of them. The closer they got the taller steeper and rockier it got. It looked like it would fill up the sky and they would never get around it.

Princess Gelachien never looked up at it. She rode hard, looking always ahead at the road. Everyone was afraid to talk to her and she rode in silence.

Before night fell they came to a fork in the road. To their right was a wide, clear path. It led down into Slojia and around the mountain. To the left was a thin, over-grown path barely wide enough for one horse to pass. It led into Urth and presumably around the mountain. To the side of that trail was a worn sign that showed a skull and bones warning travelers. Not one of the troopers knew of anyone who had traveled the northern path. They had never even heard of anyone using that path.

There was no path that led right up to the mountain. Princess Gelachien looked over the trees at the giant mountain right in front of them. They all looked up also. They could see the wind whipping snow off the rocky peak. They could hear the wind screaming and rocks falling in the wind. They could feel the cold air falling from the great height and they could smell the snow.

The trees were thinner here. Gelachien took a deep breath and spurred her horse straight on. She weaved her way past a few trees before General Skor caught her.

“Your highness. Perhaps we should wait and try in the morning. It is late and we wont be able to get very far tonight anyway.”

“We must move on General. Prince Feren needs us.”

“Yes highness, but perhaps we can send scouts ahead to find the best path. The troops are tired and need a hot meal tonight. We make every effort in the morning, but please let them rest tonight.” He placed his large hand on hers. She sighed again and nodded.

General Skor took volunteers to send forward to be scouts. The rest set up camp and made a small supper. Gelachien went to her tent and stared at the map.

Later the General brought her a plate of stew and told her that they scouts had come back with news that there was no way over the mountain. She ignored the food. “General, there must be a way over this mountain.”

“There is a saying highness. ‘The Faet is cloaked in white because she is a bride who has never known the touch of a man.’”

Gelachien smiled. “That is a good warning that comes a little late to help us get to Feren.”

“Well, the warning is late because I only learned it recently. One of our troopers told me and he told me something else about this mountain. She isn’t really a mountain.”

“Isn’t really a mountain? What do you mean?”

“She is a wizardess bride whose groom left her at the altar.”

“No. She was enchanted?”

“Yes. The story is that she fell in love with a great hunter named Noki here in the mountains. He loved her as well, but he didn’t want to leave his forests and mountains. She swore that she would stay with him in his mountains if he would agree to marry her. He did agree and they were to be married here among the pines, but at the last minute he became frightened and leapt into the sky. He became the star Noki that we can see right above the peak of the mountain. Faet became very angry and very sad. She had sworn to live in his mountains so here she had to stay. She became the mountain and is ever after reaching for the star so she can at last be with her love.”

“That is very sad. Does it help us?” Gelachien asked.

“I don’t know.” The General said. The princess smiled at him.

“Thank you. Maybe that will help me think of something. Good night General.”

He left her in her tent alone. He slept little that night and in the morning, before the sun rose, he went to look for her in her tent. She was not there.

Quickly he got his horse and began to ride, but before he got too deep into the woods he met the princess riding back toward camp.

“Are you alright your highness?” He asked her.

“Yes. I was just leaving a wedding present for the bride.” She smiled and showed her armor to him. All of the jewels had been removed.

“Do you think she will accept your present and let us pass?” He asked as they rode back.

“I hope so. Get the men ready incase she does.”

They packed up as quickly as they could. Midway through packing a deep, low rumbling began.

“What’s that?” Some of the men asked, but no one knew for sure.

It grew louder and soon the ground was shaking like an earthquake. The birds flew off and the animals ran. The horses were scared and had to be held by the men. The trees shook and snow slipped down off the mountain. When the quake stopped they all looked up and what they saw surprised and pleased them.

The mountain looked like it was leaning to the left and there on the right was a clear flat path for them to follow.

“She has decided to let us pass!” The General shouted. “Quickly now, we must ride.”

They threw what was left of their gear in their bags and rode faster than they ever had before.

The path was broad enough for them all to ride shoulder to shoulder. They left no one behind. When they were halfway across they heard the rumbling again.

“It’s starting again!”

“She’s shifting back!”

“Ride, ride as fast as you can!” They shouted and they did. They all rode as fast as they could. By the time the mountain shifted back to the way she was standing before they had all made it clear to the other side.

They waited on the path on the other side of Mount Faet to let their horses rest.

“Well, you did it highness. Now we will surely make it to West Iurnia in time.”

“Well, Faet understands love.” Gelachien sighed and waved to the mountain. “We ride again as soon as the horses are rested.”

And they did.

We Don't Want No More Black Friday

Just about a week ago we had what is rapidly becoming known as Black Friday. Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving in the USA. Thanksgiving in the US is the fourth Thursday of November and typically employers give the Friday following off as well. I heard on a local radio station (WLIT in Chicago, FM 93.9) that 78% of Americans do not have to work that day.

I don’t like the term Black Friday. To me “black” indicates bad or dark and worrisome. That’s not a feeling I want to engender on the first day of the Christmas season, the day when I start putting up decorations and start tolerating the Christmas decorations that have already been in stores since before Halloween.

The current usage is supposed to be positive and is as follows from

“The origin of Black Friday comes from the shift to profitability during the
holiday season. Black Friday was when retailers went from being unprofitable, or
"in the red," to being profitable, or "in the black", at a time when accounting
records were kept by hand and red indicated loss and black profit.”

According to Wikipedia, the phrase is older and originally refered to the traffic snars created between the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and increased number of shoppers on Friday. That makes more sense to me.

Let's look at all the "Black" days in history. Black Monday was a stockmarket crash in 1987. Black Tuesday in 1929 was the start of the Great Depression. It was actually preceded by Black Thursday the week before and then a Black Monday. England has had several Black Mondays and a Black Wednesday. Scotland and Lebanon have Black Saturdays. Black Sunday was the beginning of the Dust Bowl in 1935.

So you see, “Black” has dark, forbidding overtones and an ominous history.

I want to find a new phrase for the day after Thanksgiving. Won’t you help me? Please respond to this week’s poll.


Poll #1 Results - What You Want Illini6 to Be

The results are in. I have a few points I want to make after I give you the raw data.

Here it is in popularity order:

Military and Deployment Issues = 9 (69%)
Inner Prop's Inner Thoughts = 6 (46%)
Inner Prop's Family Life = 6 (46%)
Anthropology = 6 (46%)
Inner Prop Writing Exclusively = 5 (38%)
Rugby = 5 (38%)
Scouting = 5 (38%)
ConCultures and ConLangs = 4 (30%)
Exercise Log and Discussion = 4 (30%)

Thirteen people voted, with the last one sneaking in a vote for Anthropology on the last day. Not one topic got no votes at all.

I need to say that I have created a blog specifically for family issues of the Inner Prop. It is called Flowers of Mundelein. So that is out of the running.

I reserve the right, as the blog owner to lock in a subject. Since the original purpose of this blog was and is to share my writing I am going to continue to do that. I think it didn't get more votes because it said "Exclusively." Next time I will watch my wording better.

Clearly the voters want Military and Deployment issues discussed here. I will certainly do that.

The next top vote-getters were Anthropology and Inner Prop's Inner Thoughts. I will keep those and try to expand my Anthropology and Archaeology discussions.

I will also keep Rugby and Scouting in, but limit the discussion of them.

I will go ahead and drop Exercise discussion (never really started that) and Conlang / ConCultures off the blog for the most part. I'll keep ConLang / ConCulture in if it partains to a specific story, but not on its own.

With this list in mind I propose a new schedule (that I will try to stick with):

Monday is Fiction Day
Tuesday is Guest Star Day
Wednesday is Anything Can Happen Day
Thursday is Anthropology Day
Friday is Military / Deployement Day.