Sunday, December 29, 2013


Well, as I am shifting gears lately into different SCA activities, I decided that I should follow through on an idea I have had for a while and get myself a bag to carry things in. Now, this is actually a bit of a bleed over from my mundane life, where I have spent the past eighteen months or so putting together an EDC (every day carry) bag for myself. My mundane bag is a little bit of everything based on my time in the emergency services, security, IT, and as a parent. I don't want to reproduce that for the SCA, but the idea of conveniently having the things I am most likely to use at an event on hand, and in a period container, definitely appeals to me.

So, lets see what I have come up with.

This is a simple, heavy messenger bag composed of heavy canvas (compliments of my in-laws for Christmas). About the only thing on it that is't period is the adjuster on the left side of the strap in this photo, and at this point, I just don 't care. Its a good solid bag, and I like it.

The first thing I did on it was cut out the Velcro from under the cover flap, it really doesn't need it, and I didn't want it on there in the first place. The overall dimensions are about 16 x 12 x 3 (as I recall) and the stitching is well done and heavy.

While I'm not supposed to say that I know how much this was, I'll say it for you're benefit, you can get this exact bag for less than $15.00 at Hobby Lobby. Also, a quick search for "messenger bags" on Google will turn up a host of possibilities for you.

One of the things I want to do with this bag (next, anyway), is to paint my badge on the cover flap. My wife is optimistic that it can be done with paint, but I am curious if it might require a different fabric to be painted on, and then stitched over the front.

Lets take a look at what we have inside.

One of the things you need to understand with this is what I want it to do.

1. I'm not giving up on heralding, event voice heralding, but I am concentrating on other things within the field. There really isn't anything materialistically I need for voice heraldry that I don't already have so... that's covered. I am, however making sure to have tools for notes, drawing, and even basic armory submissions handy.

2. Scroll painting. Charter illumination was one of my first activities in the SCA, even before voice heraldry. I'm hardly peerage level in my quality of work, but it is something that I do, that I count myself good at, and something that contributes to others enjoyment of the SCA as they receive my scrolls.

3. Knife Throwing. This may seem somewhat askew from my other hobbies, but I have dabbled in it in the past, and wanted to get more proficient in the skill lately.

4. Note taking. This isn't a small item, really. After 15 years in the society, and working as a herald, a journalist, a blogger, and a regional officer, the ability to just pull out a pad of paper and take notes is a life saver on so many levels.

So, what do we actually have?

My lady wife was good to me this year, and gifted me with a full paint set, brushes, watercolor paper and a paint tray.

The tray (top left) is sturdy, large, and actually has enough spots for all of my colors.

The paints (top right) are a twenty-four color set, with only a very few that are non-period pigments. I tend to stick mostly to the base colors anyway, but it will be nice to have options as I get better. The hope here is to eventually put a small measure of all of the paints in the tray and then be able to leave the tubes at home. But for right now, they all go in the bag.

The tablet of paper (bottom right) is bleach white watercolor paper for practice and color matching. I'm not one hundred percent sure how much I will use it, but it doesn't take up much room at all in my bag.

The brushes (bottom left) are a new set, with everything from the big broad all the way down to a collection of fine points. I still need to break them in, but they look like a workable set that I can make good use of.

The green brush roll is something I made myself with some leftover felt. I'll probably fill it out with some drawing tools and more brushes as time goes on, but this looked like a good, simple, quick project for me to put together, so I did. The roll is a bit bulky, but not overly so. I'm glad I have it, and I think it will do good to keep my brushes where I can see them and get to them.

Next is what I refer to as my "desk set". Simple really, its a small (and very mundane) sipper bag with a sharpie, some pens and two mechanical pencils. Basic writing implements, nothing more, really.

Also, I have a small notepad (9 x 5) of graph paper for both taking notes, and drawing... well, anything I need to.

Some things, well, they just don't need explaining, really.

These are a set of SOG brand throwing knifes I got from Wal*Mart (of all places) for a very nice $20.00. I've thrown them a few times, and they land... how shall we say... with "authority" when they hit.

Hell... if, God forbid, I had to use these things in a real life confrontation and threw them at someone, even if the handle were all that hit, it would ring their chimes something fierce.

Right now, the whole kit packs away rather neatly, and will probably get a lot lighter once I put my paints in their trays and stop carrying around all 24 tubes.. Even still, it isn't overly heavy. The knives go across the bottom, and the rest just sits on top of that. With the strap pulled over my far shoulder, the load if nothing compared to what I'm used to carrying with one of my mundane bags.

There are a few things that I am going to add to the bag over the next few weeks, but no rush for the moment.

1, Sunscreen. Short a sweet, I need it, people around me need it, and I'm probably going to need more of it as a hot event goes on.

2. Aloe lotion. Yeah, after last triumph, I got cooked enough to know that even with sunscreen, sometimes a little extra TLC is needed.

3. Some "Nice" pens. While I don't actually do calligraphy, I do enjoy the feel and weight of a good writing implement in my hand, and if I am writing something for someone else to read, I like to make it look more than just presentable. I don't know what I will look for specifically, but something better than a Bic ball-point would be nice.

4. Parchment. This isn't overly hard, but it's not cheep. I want to get a box of decent, heavy parchment for the express purpose of people able to pull out my bag and make a nice letter (letter of intent, lever of declaration... hell, I'll even write a small illumination love lever is the pay is good) for whatever a client might want.

Now, the truth of the mater is that this is a fun little bit of fluff within the north of the kingdom, I don't think there is actually any major push for this type of service in the north.It is something, however, that historical scribes, messengers and heralds did do, so its something I want to look into.

5. Playing cards. A friend of mine got me a desk of playing cards, and I'm thinking they should go in there. Cards are period, and I'm a halfway competent player in several games. I might like the ability to just pull out the desk and invite someone to join me.

6. A "fever kit". Short and sweet here, I have some mundane medical concerns that require nearly split second response. In point of fact, I have a perpetual condition (compliments of the scar tissue left behind after my cancer treatments concluded) where I can become dangerously feverish in less than 20 minutes. That is to say, In about the time it takes me to walk from one end of a camp site to another, I can go form 98.6 to 103 internal temperature. I have spoken with my doctors on this at some extended length, and have a very specific set of steps in place for when this happens next, including some very power medications. However, I will need a thermometer, and a small container with the first dose of pills on my person or close at hand at all times. This initial pose of pills can buy me the time to find help, rest, and the remainder of my gear (which includes the rest of my medications, as well as my cell phone to call and update the doctor).

I know this seems like a lot of personal information, and it is, but again, if you look at the definition of EDC, the point of the bag is to have most of what you reasonably will need on you for when you need it. My medical situation means that I will need these things in my at all times, so that are part of the SCA bag's EDC profile.

Okay, like I said, this is as much about my mundane EDC mentality as it is about the SCA and my role in it. But hey, if I can't show off cool stuff here, then what's the point, right?

So, thoughts?

Lord Ivo Blackhawk
Kingdom of Ansteorra
"God save the King!"

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

An Armory Endgame

Today wasn't an unusual day, in fact it was a relatively dull day. But, it was also an important day.

Per bend sinister vairy argent and vert,
and argent, a bend sinister raguly on the lower edge
purpure between a bird volant bendwise sable
and a trefoil vert.
After some very long conversations, more IM chats than I care to recall, and more than a few e-mails, I finally began the submission's process for Lady Deraga Tot's arms tonight.

The practical truth of the mater is that I will be handing them over with a check to the northern regional herald at Wiesenfuer Yule Revel in a few weeks, but the point is that we are nearing the end game.

When I took on the role of herald for Deraga, I did it for so many reasons that I can't even list them all. Some of it was personal pride, some of it was pride in the college. Some of it was sympathy, I just didn't think it was right to ask someone to jump through as many hoops as she was being asked to. Some of it was ire, raw and furious; the whole submission process was a mess, and one that, frankly, the "official" end of the college made for itself. Part of me wanted a chance to fix what was wrong, but also take some part of the college to task and say "would you look at this mess!".

Some of it was age... and I know that sounds odd, but its true. A younger me would have railed and yelled and been completely supportive of an unhappy friend, and at the same time completely unproductive in my bluntness. I've been sitting on the edges of heraldic conversations long enough to pick up the names and the words that are needed to have a conversation. I've been watching the book heralds do their thing long enough to know who knows their stuff, who doesn't, and who I need to avoid altogether.

Some of it was distraction; my own life was looking too dramatic just then. I needed something to set my energy on what wasn't me, wasn't about me, didn't involve me. I needed to do something that would bring the best out in me, and in my case, helping others is always a good option for that

I've done as much as I can, and dare to do on this. I have spoken with heralds in six kingdoms, three continents. On top of solid policy, I have also gotten an earful from all sides as the process moves on.

I think just about every other commentary I have gotten about the arms as they developed started with "you need to tell your client..."

To which I really wanted to say "How about I give her her e-mail, and you can find out why that is such a bad idea first hand."

I didn't actually say it, mind you, but Lord it was tempting.

A lot of people seem to have a very specific idea of what heraldry should look like. That's fine, and I'm no exception, but I dare say that I am careful not to substitute my opinions for actual policy.


But as to what I did do... I didn't pick pointless fights, I checked the facts against the literature, and most important of all, I built up a network of friends that would allow me to not only get answers, but learn more as the process went on. If I had to do this again... I would already have the network needed to get answers that I don't have on hand.


I guess I am now officially a book herald.

lets see, I think that calls for a change.

Lord Ivo Blackhawk
Kingdom of Ansteorra
"God save the King!"

pulls out the quill...

scribble, scribble, scribble...

Lord Ivo Blackhawk
Freelance consulting book herald
Kingdom of Ansteorra
"God save the King!"


Wednesday, October 16, 2013


So, last night we were supposed to wrap up a boot making class, but the instructor wound up hurting his back at work and the group had to scramble to find a substitute A&S class.

I was hesitant to attend when I found out it was a form of cheese making. But... I went anyway, and let me just say, it was a wonderful 45 minutes of time well spent.

First of all, Lady Najat and I really haven't had much in the way of long conversations, nothing against her, mind you, but we walk in different circles. Last night, I discovered we both were addicted to Iron Chef, both loved to cook, and interesting is a lot of the pragmatic parts of cooking. It really was a fun conversation to have with her, and it might (maybe) be enough to pull me out to the cooking guild or something of that ink.

But other than that... the reason for my post is to point some well earned attention to her class. I don't know that she typed this up on 45 minutes notice, but she pulled the class off on it, and it was a great little meeting in its own right.

Below are her notes as she presented them to me.

Labneh : Straining To Make Cheese?

by Lady Najat bint Aygölgesi

What is Labneh?
Labneh is the Turkish term to refer to the product when yogurt is strained of the extra liquid to make a thicker, more cheese like food product that is easier to keep for longer periods of time (up to three weeks!). The end product is similar in consistency to cream cheese while maintaining a tangy flavor similar to the original plain yogurt.

It is hard to pinpoint when humans started straining yogurt to created strained yogurt cheese, but not unreasonable to suggest that it has been around as long as the first silly person tried to store yogurt in cloth one day. It is a traditional food of the Middle East and South Asia and is known by many names, from labaneh to dehi to chaka depending on the cultural origination and types of milk that it is made from.

The flavor and consistency of the strained yogurt cheese is dependent on the milk originally used. As camel and water buffalo milk yogurt is not readily available in the United States we will be experiencing the more mildly flavored cow milk yogurt’s flavor instead.

How does one make Labneh?
Labneh is created by straining plain yogurt until it creates a thick cheese like substance to work with.  Things you will need for this project include a strainer, a bowl, yogurt, a twist tie or some string, and the material to strain the yogurt with. The straining material can be cheesecloth or a very thin dishcloth or even a couple layers of coffee filter, it just needs to be a material that will allow extra liquid to drain off rather than sticking to the rest of the yogurt.

These materials will give you the general set up for straining the cheese in your fridge. The bowl will help by collecting the drained off whey (which can then be used in other recopies!). Set the strainer into the bowl and make sure it will set there nicely. Then lay down a layer or two of your filtering materials.

Into your cloth or filter scoop out how much plain yogurt you want to strain. A general rule is that you put four times as much yogurt as you want labneh, as this is about how much it will reduce during the straining process. 

After placing the amount that you want into your straining material gather up the edges of the cloth and tie together somewhat tightly in the middle, just so that it stays encased in the filter. Then place this onto the strainer into the bowl into the fridge.

Once about two hours has passed you should notice the whey beginning to form in the bottom of the bowl. If there looks to be anything thicker making it through the straining material it’s a good idea to add layers so that you are keeping that intact and just losing the whey.

At the four to six hour mark I find that I usually have a substance with similar consistency to the “greek” yogurt you will find available at the local grocery store. That’s right, now you know the secret to making greek yogurt for half the price! Woohoo!

But back to the Labneh…

After about twelve hours the cheese has come to a consistency that you can enjoy, but can still be strained further for whatever desired consistency.

 What can it be used for?
Tzatziki Sauce
Mix a cup of your yogurt cheese with a pound of minced cucumbers, three tablespoons olive oil, a tablespoon minced mint or dill, a clove of minced garlic, and salt and lemon juice to taste

Herbed Cheese Balls
Strain cheese until it can be formed into balls. Mix desired spices (my favorite include mint, cumin, cardamom, and garlic) with a couple tablespoons of olive oil. Roll the cheese balls into the spice mixture to then be spread on pita, naan, or any other flatbread of your choice.

As an additional ingredient
Because of labneh’s high fat content it can be added to a variety of dishes to make the sauce more creamy and thick without curdling at the high cooking temperatures.

Impressing people in camp
This entire cheese making process can be done overnight, outside, in camp. You can simply tie some yogurt up in a cheesecloth and hang it somewhere, either over a bowl or just over some place no one will mind it draining onto, and wake up to a delicacy. This is usually suggested for nights that are somewhere between 40F and 70F so that it comes out alright.

Lord Ivo Blackhawk
Kingdom of Ansteorra
"God save the King!"

Sunday, October 13, 2013


So, today a handful of us gathered to assemble the arrows that our archery marshal had purchased for us a while ago.

So, 100 shafts, knocks, heats and feather sets, all in one place...

What could possibly go wrong?


Well, it wasn't that things went wrong from the start. I just wanted expecting to have Derega hand me a fine-point sharpie and say "start lettering". And no, this wasn't just numbering the shafts. Each shaft now has inscribed on its side:

                     Province of Mooneschadowe
                   Set 1  # 1

8 sets
12 arrows each
and a few extras

Our archery marshal is a real task master.
(the above said in good humor).

We broken the process down, first shorting out the shafts into sets of 12, and then taken each set and lettering them, Derega took the odd numbers, I took the evens. It actually wasn't that bad of a process, but there were a few breaks involved.

Tigernach arrived not long after us, and started walking through the next steps in the process with Liliana and Derega while I kept lettering the last few sets.

We had a small panic moment when Tigernach thought we had different sized shafts. Okay, some of us had slightly larger panic moments, specifically Derega who has been fighting to keep this archery on track from the first day of the order. Not long after this, Snyder and Sky arrived, and Sky (in his usual fashion) heard what was going on and promptly volunteered "I have a gauge at home that would measure these" We rushed him back out the door with all sue haste so that we could decide if these shafts were different sizes, or if our eyes were playing tricks on us.

He returned a short while later, and after some walking around, measuring shafts and looking at the grains (and a few other things that I wasn't 100% sure I understood), Tigernach proclaimed that they were, in fact, all the same size. We wound up deciding that a few of his tools were a little more worn out than he had though, but we switched out blades and straightened things in short order, and before long, we had a good little system going.

Tigernach and Sky were tapering the ends down for the heads and nocks, while Derega and Snyder use epoxy to fix the knocks on. I took it upon myself to take the shafts and stand them up in groups, so that the knocks didn't glue together, and the numbers we had so carefully put on didn't become meaningless.

As fortune would have it, I actually had to duck out early... (mundane obligations), but the chance to help out was well worth the two and  a half hours spent.

it will probably be another meeting or two before we can actually make these things flightworthy, but it was a good progress today so far.

Lord Ivo Blackhawk
Kingdom of Ansteorra
"God save the King!"

Sunday, October 6, 2013

A step into a different type of heralding

I've never considered myself a book herald, and honestly, I don't find the discipline terribly rewarding, and much of its nomenclature is alien to me. its not that I don't appreciate it, or respect its purpose in the SCA, but let's be clear, I have never heavily studied the art.

But, as usually does happen with me, (in and out of the society) my personal wishes are not the only  forces that shape my path.

Following a meeting two weeks before Triumph, I was stepped away from a heraldry planning session when Lady Derega stepped up to our herald, Lord Lucas.

"Did you want to help with site heraldry?" he asked her.

"No, I have a totally different question." She walked over to him and showed him the submission forms for the arms she was working on. "Emma just said I can't submit these." She sounded more than a bit frustrated, and I didn't blame her. Those arms had been put together at King's college months before, researched to death, and the submission was only delayed because of some logistical issues on the part of the herald. She was eager to get it into the college and approved, but now there seems to be yet another hurdle to get over.
The conversation lasted only a few moments longer before the meeting was abruptly ended. Several things came together just then, necessitating us to depart. The Students had a demo to prepare for, we were at out 9 pm agreed upon departure time, and the Stillwater Multi-Arts center was wanting to close on time. The meeting disbanded into two groups, those who were going to campus to set up, and the rest of us, a smaller group, for whom a late night was just not an option.

For my part, my wife my son and myself were all due up before sunrise the next morning, staying up late, slinging signs and list-field poles would serve no one any good.

The "refugees" from setup congregated at our usual post-meeting haunt, the local Mazios. As it happened, I wound up sitting across from Derega, who was still none to happy with her heraldry situation.

She'd spent a huge measure of time at the consulting table at King's College, and the work she'd put into the design was impressive, especially for someone as relatively young to the SCA as she was. Evidently Emma has seen her, or spoke with her at the beginning of the meeting and explained that something about her design was not acceptable and that she would have to change it.

Three things really worked against her here, and all three were visibly grating on her. First, we are just a couple months in the school year, and her schedule (not unlike Mine, my wife's and my son's, coincidentally, though for different reasons all), was more or less wall to wall activity, with no break. School, work, SCA... and so forth. She was tired, stressed, generally frustrated already, and now Emma came in and more or less landed an off-handed comment about "this won't work".

That really is the second major complaint for me; Derega walked away from the encounter with only enough to know what she had wouldn't' work, and not any more. Not the worst way to approach the issue, but it sure was up there. And finally, the amount of work she did put into it was considerable. I remember watching her pouring over heraldry books for some hours at King's College, documenting examples, taking extensive notes... the works... and now, as far as we were concerned she just got hit with a technicality.

Most of dinner for us was casual chatter, none of us were overly energetic. The days were long, the nights were longer, and usually not for any enjoyable reasons. Conversation, as I recall, was light, inconsequential, and a lot of us just enjoying what chance we had to forget the day. We departed that night, and when I got home I wound up going to bed relatively early (at least for me).

Wednesday was another long day for me; up early, long hours at work, and then a long drive back. But, like the Wednesday before, it was also archery.

It's probably been over five years since the last time I donned armor, a combination of health, time, money, goals and politics were what finally worked me away from that life in the SCA, and while I don't regret the decisions that led me away, I do miss it.

Archery, however, does appeal to me in many of the same ways, but without  a lot of the drawbacks that heavy combat brought with it. There is no win or loss with the bow, just a goal, a tool, and a distance to bridge between them. For me, its not hard to understand the characteristics of the art that lead to Japanese to take it up as a form of meditation. Wednesday afternoon was the meditative period I needed, and the socialization as well.

At the moment, a typical Mooneschadowe shoot consists of about 5 minutes off shooting, and about 15 (and at times more) of recovering arrows that never hit the target. While we're all walking about trying to decide which clump of grass has the missing arrows, a lot of talk is exchanged, and usually, its a lot of venting about the day, or talk about life or... whatever. Just a chance to get to know the person next to you a little better if nothing else.

We also had a new member there, a recruit from the college intramural archery team who thought what we did sounded cool. She was there, like most new members, wide eyed and starting from the beginning, but was friendly and welcomed without hesitation from us. Derega spent some time coaching her on shooting techniques while I tried to get my grouping down at the 30 yard Target.

We finally closed the day out in time to break down the range and head our separate ways. As I took down one of the targets and walked it back to Degera's car, I felt refreshed mentally. The focus of the range helped me to clear my thoughts, and the work helped me to burn off extra energy.

Something of an informal ritual following Wednesday shoots is for a handful of us to meet and have a quick dinner together. Tonight was no exception, with our newcomer, myself, my 7 year old son (who also shoots, albeit only occasionally), and Derega.  Normally I pick my wife up, but she was swamped with school work that night, so we both opted to let her have some extra peace while I grabbed dinner.

It was only once we were all sitting down and talking that I started to see the stress that Derega hadn't shed with the rest of us at the range. She was still burned out, and when she got on to the topic of her heraldry, she started to visibly shake, and more than once I heard her voice crack.

I know that now, in the sterile environment of words on paper it seems easy to dismiss her tears as silly, but trust me, her emotions were quite warranted. Beyond all of what I mentioned before, she was now just two weeks from Triumph, and she would be running all of the archery there, so... add that to the list of life, work, SCA and whatever that she was carrying around. We were all feeling it to one extent or another, I think that I was more hardened against the worst of it all after a decade and a half in the middle of it. Derega was scantly into her second year, and less than six months as an officer.

(addendum: to clarify... those tears were not those of a fragile woman. Derega has become to be one of the most determined and focused people I know. The sight of her that shaken didn't speak of weakness, but of someone who was willing to push herself forward where others would likely crumble. Fatigue created frustration which created more fatigue and so on.... a cycle she not only survived, but eventually overcame.)

For all my voice heraldry, I've never been any good at all at book heraldry. But still, I knew how the college of heralds works, and I know who to talk to, which was more than anyone else at the table could say.

"Can I see your submission form?" I said, somewhat interrupting her as she vented about the whole messed up situation.

"Um, sure." she reached into her bag and pulled out one of the colored sheets.
"I'll tell you what," I said as I took out my phone and snapped a photo of  it. "Let me take this to the herald's Facebook group and see what they say."

Derega seemed taken aback at the offer."Okay..." she said, I'm sure not wanting to get her hopes up.

"Look, the first thing we need to do it get some details about why Emma thinks this won't pass, and then we need to see what we can do to make it passable. What do you remember of what Emma did tell you?"

She tried to recall, but the conversation was too distant, and her frustration too high. The poor girl started to tear up again at the whole mess.

I reached across the table just then and took her hand, "Hey, listen to me." I reassured her. "Let me tackle this for a while. There is no reason for you to beat your head against a wall right now. I know who to talk to and who to ask questions of."

She took a second to compose herself, and then smiled. "Thank you."

I laughed, "Thank me after this is over," I quipped.

While we were talking  I was concentrating on heraldry, and remembering why I got into heraldry all those years ago. it was an interesting reflection.

For me, it was more than just being loud and easily heard; there was an art, a pageantry, a beauty to it that helped set the SCA apart from the world around it. It wasn't one eureka moment, but a gradual progression away from others things, and towards heraldry for me. I did it, in large part to help make others look better.
I guess, in many respects that was why I was stepping in to help Degera here, to help her look better, with a registered set of arms to show with her AOA.

Dinner concluded, and we went our separate ways, my son and I went home where I went to Facebook and posted the photo on the herald's chat group. Not long after, the first replies starting coming.

The first hangup was the black bird on a red background, color on color. I wasn't overly worried about that... the new provisions allowed  for an exception if we could document three cases of it in period. I knew that Derega had such documentation.

The line of division was another point, but I wasn't too worried about that as they were more concerned with the drawing. So long as the crenelations were redrawn larger, and with fewer of them, we would probably be in good shape.

The bird, however... another story. Evidently "migrant" is a modern invention, thanks to early heralds in the SCA. That was going to require some fancy footwork, and more expertise than I had at the moment.

I had something to work with at least. Something that I could take back to Derega and begin working with.

It would still be a long process, but at least we had a direction to go.

Lord Ivo Blackhawk
Kingdom of Ansteorra
"God save the King!"

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Where did it go?

One month ago, I more or less walked away from the principles I had been raised with regarding my own faith,  fairness, honor, and nobility. In a moment of ire, I let my temper lead where my better judgement should have gone first, and in doing so, I robbed Charles the Grey of any reasonable opportunity he might have to defend himself from my accusations.

I owe Centurion Charles the grey an apology for my conduct here.

While I stand by the facts stated, airing them here was counter to any good sense, and any productive means. There are ways of accomplishing my goals, this should never have been one of them.

Frankly, it was just selfish, and stupid of me to press forward with it.

In closing, I ask that for those of you who followed the narrative, take to heart its greatest lesson, and that is that vengeance allows for no winners when is it employed.

Lord Ivo Blackhawk
Kingdom of Ansteorra
"God save the King!"

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Going forward... I am going to actually have fun.

Today could have been better.Yesterday could have been a lot better. This week...
Oh, lets just say it, right now I'm just god damned furious.

I'm mad at my friends, I'm mad at my enemies. I'm mad at people I haven't spoken to in years, and I'm mad at people I have to speak to every day. I'm sick and tired of watching my world turn itself upside down, with each and ever step of the process feeling like I am walking uphill against an rock-slide.

I watched as someone who should never have been able to affect me at all managed to largely dislodge, and then hobble me from a job I love.

I went from having a working car to $400.00 more in repairs that won't finish before tomorrow afternoon.
My technical supervisor at work (one of 4 support staff I work under) is not only passive aggressive.... but he's bad at it, and with a short fuse.

My house has seen better days.


And then I come home from work, after forgetting my phone, after getting off work almost an hour late, and curiously enough I find this on my IM waiting for me.

"Hey. I'm going to begin my first paper over the 1066 invasion of England soon and I'm looking for sources. I'm supposed to compare and contrast the English and the Norman accounts of the event. Any suggestions on finding sources?"
Without even thinking I grabbed my laptop and punched in "look for 'the Anglo-Saxon chronicles', and look for a writer names William of Potiers, he was the Chaplin to William the Bastard."

Someone needed something, and just like that, I was able to help, or at least offer something to him.

I don't know why, exactly, but for some reason that academic question pulled me out of my ugly state long enough to see what needed to be done.

So, going forward.

As to my car... Old friend, you've given me 55,000 miles in two years, you've earned a rest. enjoy your time on the mounds and off your wheels.

As to my technical dispatcher... You can either loose the attitude, or hang onto it, I don't care. But I'm definitively not going to let your attitude follow me home again, that was just stupid on my part.

To ... oh hell, lets just name him... Charles...  guess what, I'll deal with you some other time when I'm level headed, calm, and don't have an event staring me in the face.

And to a few others out there...

Jon... Look forward to seeing you out there, you're  a good man, with a good heart, and I have come to cherish your commentary.

Derega... I think its time I pull my head out of my ass and start actually focusing on what I CAN do this weekend. I've been so busy fuming about the site heralding debacle that I was giving my promise to you lip service, and little more. Be ready for a show... because I plan on crying the shoot for you, and giving it all I have!

Zach... Good luck on your paper, and feel free to look me up anytime you want. 1066 is a benchmark year for English history, and I have read up on it a lot. Enjoy.

Oh, and Talbot.... I want a photo of you crossing the finish line of that 5K on Saturday, I don't care if they have to carry you across, I want a photo!

This weekend is OUR event dammit! I've been going to Triumph since the first, and Guardian before that since I first joined. Nothing sort of a natural disaster should be able to get between me and the fun that that event contains, and I'm not going to let anything start now! I'm ready to work my ass off, I'm ready to sweat off ten pounds, I ready to work until I hurt, and then pull myself up by my bootstraps and do it all again.

And I was a idiot for every forgetting that in the first place!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Two things.

Firstly, you will note that I no longer sign my name as that of a protege. Master Robert has been compelled out of the society my means outside of his control. He and I spoke on the issue in some detail, and based on what we set out to do when I accepted the protege's belt from him, we both agreed that there was no benefit to e gained by continuing that relationship. We ares till good friends, and are welcomed as family in each other's homes, and I look forward to the day when he might return. But the path of pelican is not mine any more.

Secondly, as some of you know, and many more probably don't, I have long been held to a "ignore them, and they will go away" policy with regards to some of my local antagonists. That philosophy has proven effective only at enabling the most dogged of my detractors, and after ten years of (at times compulsory) adherence to it, I have finally decided that strategy is counterproductive.

I don't intend to openly vent here at every minor disagreement I run across in the SCA. And as much as we may scoff at the modern meaning of the word "politics", level headed prudence is needed when making statements to large audiences like the one I have here.

Still, I'm hoping that a few people in particular get wind from this post that their names are no longer off-limits. Things said, things done, things that until now were burred by force of will from people who didn't want to "rock the boat",  are now eligible to join a written historical record for the scrutiny of any and all who choose to look.

Those who know me know, know I will work towards an honorable ends with this philosophy.

Those who don't, time will show better than my words can.

And to those who think they know me, but really don't...

you know who you are...

and there aren't many of you...

Tread lightly.

Lord Ivo Blackhawk
Kingdom of Ansteorra
"God save the King!"

Monday, July 15, 2013


An update, for those who are interested in such things. Evidence that humor runs deep in Mooneschadowe.

From: A company of Heroes: An early History of the Liondragon Guard.

"Midway through [ Gulf Wars XIII (2004)], the Ansteorrian army awoke to find several plastic, blue and pink flamingo yard ornaments displayed around the kingdom’s Gate.  Revelations years later would implicate a group if intoxicated Trimaran squires who had liberated the plastic decorates from a “flock” that one trimaran knight in particular carried with him to events. The sight of the odd display the next morning left most of Ansteorra both scratching their heads as to the point of the display, and with little doubt as to what kingdom the flock needed to be returned to.

Liondragon, however, did not miss the opportunity  to one-up their adversary. After some creative conspiring between several guard members, including HE Gunhilda and Lord Charles, the guard stood ready to “return” the wayward trespassers to their rightful owners. When the guard marched to the Ravine battle that day, no less then four Flamingo’s were affixed to the unit’s armor; one as a makeshift Blue helmet crest (complete with duct tape blindfold and a cigarette in it’s beak), and another three duct-taped across scutums as “pink” decorations/ablative armor. No small number of odd looks were received between blows as Liondragon and Trimaris  vied for control of the Ravine that day."

Lord Ivo Blackhawk
Kingdom of Ansteorra
"God save the King!"

Thursday, July 11, 2013

"Foot Notes"

After having it suggested to me by a friend, I have decided to make a second version of my upcoming road heraldry manual. This one will be in the style of the modern "Cliff's notes" books, with only the essential highlights of how to site herald. More or less, the idea is to give a rookie something he can reasonably use in a "you have 20 minutes to learn this job" type scenario. And honestly, this is not unreasonable, as a lot of site heralds are short-timers, asked to help, but not really interested in making it a long term skill. This is okay, Site heraldry is a labor of love, and I love it for that fact. But still, short term or not, there are ways of making this easier on people without obligating them to hours of training.

So, in honor of the "Cliff's notes" reference that I have decided to title my booklet "Foot Notes: a guide to road heraldry"

This, and my larger project are at my website if you want to follow.

Lord Ivo Blackhawk
Kingdom of Ansteorra
"God save the King!"

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The origins of the Liondragon

A bit of SCA history from my local group. This particular segment talks about the origins of the liondragon heraldry, the identifying element of our group's fighting unit. While I won't quite compare it to the "eagle, globe and anchor", the there are some parallels to be had between them. Please, enjoy, share and if you know more on this subject, by all means, let me know. The point of the actual document is to collect information and include it in the narrative. 

(Citations for what I have are available upon request, if anyoneis that interested)

The mythical “Liondragon” badge was actually born of an in-group joke. Several members of the shire had quipped that the group should register a “Draggin’ tail” because of how bad Mooneschadowe tended to procrastinate. The early efforts to move forward with the pun ran into some local resistance because of possible associations with Middle Kingdom, or Drachenwald. While the pun was eventually discarded for more serious imagery, the concept of a creature with a dragon’s tail persisted. Lord George Michael Edmundson, the herald at the time, discovered two previously registered badges called “winged lion-dragons”. George presented a wingless variant of the illustration to the group, dubbing it simply the “Liondragon”. The invocation (weather deliberate or coincidental is lost to history) of an kingdom icon (the lion) and a unique feature, (the dragon’s tail) went over well with the group and won popular support quickly. Ultimately Talen and his wife Treshen became the strongest advocates of a newly fashioned design. While not a historical design in itself, the combination of animals (even fictional ones) into mythical figures is a documentable practice in English heraldry. The Badge was submitted (fieldless, meaning it needed no background) to the college of arms, and registered in June of 1991. The actual purpose of the Liondragon figure was not decided upon for some time, though the general idea had been to use it as an overall Mooneschadowe badge. Gulf Wars V would mark its first use as a military uniform, and the subsequent years to follow would cement it in this roll. In over a decade of history since, this display has changed little, and has since proven to be one of the guard’s most identifiable features. 

Lord Ivo Blackhawk
Kingdom of Ansteorra
"God save the King!"

Monday, July 8, 2013

Of history and of war, within the SCA

This is one of my largest, and frankly most controversial projects. One of Mooneschadowe's most well known organisations is it's fighting unit, the Liondragon guard, or "the guard" as it is known locally. In early 2013, I became aware that I was one of a very few people who were fully aware of some stories of the guard's history and background. Furthermore, some of the commonly held believes being passed down to our newer members did not correspond with my own recounting of certain events. With this in mind I set out to collect and condense as much of the guard's history as I could into a single document. Needless to say, this was not universally popular, though I consider my commitment to history more important than my popularity.  While there will probably never be a history that is completely verifiable or accepted, I present this work in progress as an honest effort to preserve what still remains of the guard's origins and history.

A Company of Heroes: an Early History of the Liondragon Guard

Lord Ivo Blackhawk
Kingdom of Ansteorra
"God save the King!"

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Formatting and shrinking... a lot of shrinking

Okay, I have been busy with my girdle-book idea. There are more details at my website, but I wanted to summarize the process here as well.

I'm transferred and formatted the complete text of the Ansteorran award scrolls to a 4.25" x 5.5" page format for as small a book as I can manage. The spacing as been tightened down, and the font printed in 12 point Cambri. All told, I now have 5798 words, 58 pages (including a huge table of contents). Take a look and see the updates and the background information for yourself.

Lord Ivo Blackhawk
Kingdom of Ansteorra
"God save the King!"

Saturday, July 6, 2013

And introducing....

The Hawk's Nest: a Herald's Workshop

While I feel that the page is relatively self explanitory, I'll go ahead and give the penny tour.

Road Heraldry 101 - this part chronicles my efforts to fully develop a written curriculum for road (site) heraldry.

Also, the first draft (emphasis on "draft") is up there of the manual, please, feel free to take a look.

Girdle Book - This talks about my girdle book project. not a lot there right now, but more to follow.

"The Quill and parchment" - this is my library of my works. Some are there, others to follow. Please feel free to look around.

Lord Ivo Blackhawk
Kingdom of Ansteorra
"God save the King!"

Some new tools and some news

As I rite this it is late and I am tired so I will keep this brief.

I have decided that my latest efforts are best documented on a more versatile web address than my blog. I have't published it yet, but I am within a day or two of launching my SCA heraldry website.

Included on this site will be several documents, including a large collection of my original SCA-centric works.

And on that note, my latest word is one step closer to fruition.

I have completed the first draft of my road heraldry paper, now currently called "Medium to large event Road Heraldry, and Instructional Manuel by Lord Ivo Blackhawk".

The present statistics are 27 pages without the appendix (which contains the notes the material is based on), 17263 words.  

One step closer!

Lord Ivo Blackhawk
Kingdom of Ansteorra
"God save the King!"

Monday, July 1, 2013

Quiet and idle... for long enough

There is more to me than just good health and a happy family. Heraldry may well run as thick in my veins as blood, but heraldry is a purpose driven skill. to be a herald in truth is to have a court to call, or a site to cry. It is to have a badge to construct or a name to consult on. In truth, one can only fractionally call themselves a herald in a vacuum.

That, in all honestly, has been my existence for the past six months. Even since receiving my second clean bill of health, the time off that I have taken during my recovery had pulled me far enough away from my trade and craft that others stepped in to fill the resulting void, or even in some cases, it was decided that such services as my own were not needed. I don't really begrudge most for their decisions in that time, none should be asked to simply put things on hold while another is ill; as any situation changes, the population at large should adapt and move on, it is the way of things, and it is best for them.

Still, that left me in very much of a vacuum, with little in the way of things to go in my old stock and trade as a herald.

That was until now. And as fortune would have it... the answers to several of my quiet prayers were answered at once, but not in one answer.

My time of idleness is over. Once again, I have purpose, and I have goals to attend to.

First... "the book".

A few weeks ago, I attending King's College, here in Mooneschadowe. A Good event to be sure, but something I have never seen before was handed to me there. All of the teachers were gifted with Girdle Books. These simple constructed little items were the first I had ever seen of such an item, but I learned quickly that they were usually elaborately constructed books worn in the later third of the middle ages, and were absolutely accurate for my persona.

Now, I've constructed several mock-ups and prototypes since then, mostly out of my own personal curiosity and creative interest. The whole point of the book is to have a readily available text on you that you can carry with you wherever you go. In many respects it is a precursor to the PDA and smartphone technology of modern times. Ultimately, I had wanted to make something I could take and keep notes on for court heraldry. I don't do it enough to truly memorize the steps and processes, and the closing salutes usually escape me without some sort of script.

Then, this weekend past, I was more or less submerged in a churning cauldron of heralds from across the SCA. Conversation flowed, ideas were bounced left and right, and then, I had an epiphany.

What if the complete text for the awards of the kingdom, as well as the fundamental steps for opening and closing baronial, royal and grand courts were condensed down into a single text, bound, and made into a girdle book? This would afford a herald a ready refernce for court.

Lunacy you say?

I'm just getting started.

Historically, the vast majority of Girdle books that still exist are prayer books, or Books of Hours. After mulling the title over, and reflecting on the long standing joke that since the SCA doesn't have a church, they rely on the college of heralds for its necessary administrative frustrations, I decided to encapsulate my plan into a cant:

"The Ansteorrian Heraldic Book of our's."

Within it's pages will be a complete list of the current award tests, as well as the framework procedures for the opening, closing and ordering of courts (and meetings) at the local, Baronial, Royal and Grand (inter-kingdom) level. To add to this, the book will includes illuminated capitol letters and pages in a fashion reminiscent of actual historical examples, but will also retain it's functionality as a working text meant to guide heralds when they are caught without their normal "bag o' magic and mystery".

Some people loved it, some people liked it, and some were skeptical, but not against it 

But the best endorsement I ran into was when Mistress Dorcas Whitecap, who upon hearing it said "good idea, in fact so good I think I might steal it!"

It's grown since then, but people have already stepped up to help. There is a lot to do if I am to make this happen, but I think it is infinitely doable, absolutely cool, and most importantly; a contribution that will help elevate heraldry within Ansteorra. 

Second: a class, and a class of heralds, and a job that should never be quiet.

I have long held that road heraldry (crying the site) is an important job within the SCA. Surprisingly, that has met with some resistance, including a few autocrats who outright said "we don't need site heralds" and made it clear that heraldry would not be included in their agenda. To be fair, these are few and far between, but I point them out here because everyone should know that Road heralds are not automatically seen in the same light as their court, list, or book herald counterparts.

As Road heraldry is one of my fortes within the society, I made up a class or it some seven years ago. Two hours long, and with a handout that is fifteen pages, I have given it ten times, and never had more than two people attend, (and worse yet, two of those classes were complete no-shows). Still, I have faith in the importance of my cause, and with that I submitted my class for Known World Heraldic and Scribal Symposium.

To my pleasant surprise, the attendance here was a marked improvement, and none in there had seen my word before, meaning I was seeing fresh faces, getting fresh takes on old ideas, and likewise sharing the benefit of my decade of service waling sites for autocrats and Scenechals.

I had no way of even guessing the good fortune that would befall me after that class. First of all, I had four people afterwords who were not there, walk up it me, identify themselves and then say "I was talking about site heralding and your name came up as one of the top authorities here at the event." So, aside from the people in my class, four more got handouts and instructions on how to reach me and teach the class for themselves. Additionally, only one person out of that combined group was Ansteorrian, meaning that my class just jumped a half dozen kingdom borders.

Also: one of my students spoke with me right after class. As it happens, he's a peer and the War Herald for next year's Gulf Wars. He spoke candidly about the state of site heraldry at the war, explaining that the last two years didn't even have organized site heraldry, and he felt that the war suffered for it. He urged me to contact the War Voice herald (who is ansteorrian) and speak with her about my class and my materials. He said he wanted road heraldry back at the war, and felt strongly that I could help him towards that cause.

I had just gone from trying to find places to help teach heraldry, to being names an inter-kingdom level authority on a subject, and assisting with planning stages of site heraldry for the second largest war in the society.

Third: From notes to a class to a paper... from herald to a scholar.

Building on that last part, the same individual spoke with me some time the next day. He asked me if I would write an academic paper on the subject of road heraldry, a paper that could (and would) be both usable at an inter-kingdom level for educational purposes, as well as submitable to A&S competitions for peer review and critique. I had never considered this possibility before, but if a peer of the society would advocate for such a thing unsolicited, then it is a very realistic venue for me to help raise heraldic education levels in the SCA as a whole. I have always considered myself a writer, and a amateur scholar, but never have I considered advancing road heraldry through scholarly writing before. This will be a new concept for me, but one that I am looking forward to.

Fourth (and last): to rejoin the ranks... to march with an army.

I have not been able to go to Gulf wars in a great many years. With a family, and financial obligations, Uprooting three lives for a week and traveling a quarter of the continent away was simply not practical in recent years.

But this Sunday my wife and I spoke on the subject, and we agreed that now there is more to this issue than just going and having fun, or even working. People are seeking me out for my skills, and I know I have more to give than just what can be put on a page. While it will pain me to depart without the wife I love, or the son I adore, we have all agreed that the best thing I can do is to go forward, and travel with the army of Ansteorra for the next Gulf wars.

To war I go.

Lord Ivo Blackhawk
Kingdom of Ansteorra
"God save the King!"