• Crusader Kings III Available Now!

    The realm rejoices as Paradox Interactive announces the launch of Crusader Kings III, the latest entry in the publisher’s grand strategy role-playing game franchise. Advisors may now jockey for positions of influence and adversaries should save their schemes for another day, because on this day Crusader Kings III can be purchased on Steam, the Paradox Store, and other major online retailers.


    Real Strategy Requires Cunning
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CatKnight

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The Cat's Lair (CatKnight)

There are people who reshape the world by force or argument, but the cat just lies there, dozing; and the world quietly reshapes itself to suit his comfort and convenience. --Allen and Ivy Dodd

A Dirty Business

Greetings folks, and welcome to my castle. Come join me by the fire. It's a frosty night in my area of the world, a good time to huddle close with friends and families and share tales of what was and might yet be again. The Once and Future AARer, perhaps? Anyone who's read through a few Crusader Kings AARs knows King Arthur has nothing on us!

Who am I you ask? There's not much to say - I'm the chap who's needed nine months to write out eight years of an EU2 AAR, I truly believe Cthulhu is a viable alternative for US President, and I once got into an argument over a quote gun. That's enough for you to know. I won't bother you with my humble beginnings in a long fallen order of knighthood, the first born of a half-demon and a half-angel, nor of my quests for the Golden Fleece, Durandel, and the Holy Grail, nor...

Where? Oh, I loaned them to the Museum of London. They should be on display there now. Go ahead, I'll wait.

*pause*

Good, now that the more gullible folk are out of the way we can talk freely. If you've read or written enough AARs, then like me you know a terrible secret, one the average citizen does not and can never know lest they go insane with horror. The truth is all this talk of feudalism, absolute and limited monarchy, democracy, republic, fascism, communism, and a hundred other titles meant to confuse the unwary are lies. Every single government on this planet is basically the same my friend. They are all overrun with that greatest bane to life on Earth: Politicians. Sooner or later, your AAR is going to have to tackle how to portray them.

Politicians are, of course, as old as civilization itself. Anthropologists have proof that the first successful politician ran on a platform of bringing fire to his tribe. He was quickly followed by the first anarchist, who set fire to his platform. Twenty-first century politics runs on similar principles.

The first to give a name to this growing horror were the Greeks. "Politics" is, of course, a Greek word made up of 'poli' - meaning 'many', and 'tics' - meaning 'blood sucking parasites.' The Romans were so alarmed they shrugged off the trappings of a republic and happily followed a series of megalomaniac emperors until an anarchist objected to Nero's fiddle playing and set fire to their entire city.

The European Middle Ages were a politician's dream. You might not think so with the continent overrun by petty warlords, but remember the fount of all legitimacy and learning, thus all politicians, was the Church. No one went against the Church, not even the Germanic emperors. Anyone who tried usually met a diplomat from the Kingdom of Sicily named Vito who made them an offer they couldn't refuse. Those who refused anyway wound up buried under Giants stadium in New York, which was rather strange since the Dutch wouldn't found the city until the early 17th century.

After the Renaissance being a politician became tougher. A series of absolute monarchs who simply conquered Sicily whenever Vito got saucy meant they had to be more subtle and learn to work behind the scenes. Even this couldn't save them in 1789 when the French decided the only good noble (read politician) was a dead one. Unfortunately for Europe, Napoleon took this one step further and decided to kill everyone else's politicians too. And their armies. And their people. And their sheep...

After Napoleon the modern era of politics begins as democracies take hold. As you know, in a modern democracy the will of the people is expressed by special interest groups, which in turn finance between two and 79,158 major parties depending on which country you're in. The modern political party stands on a platform occasionally detailing their ideal of the nation's economic, trading, religious, minority and military policies (according to Victoria,) but more often simply parroting what the latest poll says. Fortunately for them their platforms don't burn. Often.

Despite a few missteps in the twentieth century - namely Pikachu and Digimon - politics today are much as ever. This is a good thing as it makes writing about politics in AARs much easier for all concerned, especially me who's already spent 750 words trying to be clever.

Now, let's be honest: Not every AAR needs politics. If you're writing about your latest WC, or showing us a bunch of screenies, it probably doesn't matter what your marshal/duke/governor/chief of staff thinks. After all it's your game, those characters are (at best) a few lines of text in your save game file, and they can frankly lump it. If you're going to write a story or a narrative though, then you have a little more work to do.

Before we can discuss politics, we need a working definition. For our purposes politics are an attempt to influence governmental policy. A politician, then, is someone who's making said attempt. This is vague enough to cover everyone from your Crusader Kings vassal through Greenpeace. Despite scandals and jokes to the contrary, most politicians are honestly trying to make their town/state/province/country/world a better place. Their definition of 'better place' is where things start to get shaky.

Writing believable politics means writing believable politicians. Others have discussed writing about and detailing characters before, and Lord Durham's "character sheet" is always a useful tool, so I won't repeat what you already know - though I will emphasize a few points:

The most important thing you need to know about your politician is his ultimate goal. 'To help my king/country' is not an acceptable goal. If your ruler is listening to anyone who can't say that, then your ruler is an idiot and deserves his fate when Vito comes to visit.

You need to dig a little deeper. Being a patriot is all well and good, but your politician needs to know where he wants his nation to go. A modern mainstream liberal and mainstream conservative can both love their country - and fight tooth and nail about what's best for it. It's in that conflict that a political story can be told.

Crusader Kings and Victoria offer the most help here. The former gives your ruler and courtiers personalities that change over time, while the latter offers party platforms. Even Hearts of Iron gives you advisors that focus on specific parts of their job. EU/EU2 is unfortunately weak in this area, but a little research and/or imagination will more than suffice.

Once you know your politician's main goal, you need to consider his immediate goal. This is simply the next step in his plan. A valorous marshal who believes strength and power are synonymous will want your ruler to fight, while a party that believes in limiting citizenship to a given race or religion is going to block any attempts at equality. The immediate goal will change constantly based on game play and what the other politicians in your AAR are trying.

If your character is paranoid enough, he may also have a false goal out there for his enemies to find. This is especially true if your character's goals are contrary to either what's good for the nation and/or what the people believe to be acceptable, like a Communist in 1950s America, or Hitler in 1933 Germany. After all, you can't really just tell your citizens you plan to be a megalomaniac and trigger a devastating war.

When writing about politics, you also need to consider what these characters bring to the table. Specially, what are their assets and liabilities. Who can they call upon for favors? Who do they owe? Politics, if nothing else, is about compromise, deal making and the age old "I'll do this for you, if you do this for me." A 19th or 20th century politician who can convince major labor unions to go on strike is incredibly powerful, while one who can gather a lot of money for campaigning from sympathetic donors holds a different kind of power. The key here is to remember that politicians rarely act because they're feeling altruistic. They can't afford to. The people who put them in office, whether it's the ruler or a political party, expect them to do their job and that means acting in accordance with their goals. If they put those aside for someone else, you can be sure they expect the favor to be returned at some point.

What does this mean for your AAR? Whenever you have a major decision to make in game, stop for a moment and think about these characters. What will they want your ruler to do? Who's influential right now? What will your ruler finally order? Your game play may change if you do this, which can be both good in that it lends depth and realism to your AAR, and bad in that it tends to be inefficient. A brilliant example of both can be seen in Mettermrck's "Advantages without Obligations," which is featured elsewhere in this gazette. Mettermrck intentionally makes major political and strategic errors simply because that's what he felt his characters would have done.

In a way, this is similar to several interactive AARs you see where one person is playing the game, but lets others play various advisors. Each has their own agenda, and their own idea where the country should go. The 'story' is therefore more about how the players interact with each other and who can influence the ruler to do what they want.

How it affects your writing depends on the style of AAR you're preparing. As I mentioned, this doesn't really apply to one concentrating solely on game play. Narratives that read like history books, on the other hand, can concentrate on what each politician or political group wants and from there rebuild what happens next. In a story/novel type AAR, you'll probably get a more personal look at these characters and learn what they're thinking and how they interact.

In conclusion I'd like to point you to a handful of AARs that I believe do a good job of reflecting the political game:

CK: In Flanders Field by Rex Angliae
Victoria: 54-40' or... by Machiavellian

Until next time, this is the CatKnight signing off.
 
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The GenAARal Idea (coz1)

On Characters​

If you are writing a story driven AAR and wish to make it is realistic as possible, you will need to develop your characters to get that across. History style does not require any in depth study of a character and any other form of AAR simply does not use them. But in a story, your characters are everything.

We have read AARticles looking at relationships and especially the role of love, character moods and ways of presenting such and even appearances and what that means for your characters. All of these certainly play into what you should be thinking about when you create them. You must know who they are before you can put them onto a page and have them interact with each other in the circumstances in which you have placed them.

I spoke some time before about what helps me write for my characters and I felt it was time to draw that out a bit. My time as an actor, and training for theatre has assisted me in knowing what I need to do to understand the people I write for. Of course, I can never truly understand on a personal level how to write for a woman while being a man, nor can I write honestly about circumstances I have never personally been through, such as death of a spouse, being a soldier in a war or dying of old age. But if I understand the motivations behind the people I create, then I can easily do a fair job in presenting them in such circumstances because I know how they might react.

My acting training is based very much in the Method. This was a system created in Russia by Konstantine Stanislavski around the turn of the 20th century. As it eventually traveled across the ocean to North America, it became known as the Method and was taught by, among others, Elia Kazan. In fact, having just recently lost playwright Arthur Miller, it is rather apropos to be writing about this subject as many of his works were performed using this style in its first incarnation in the US. Frankly, one would be hard pressed to find a decent actor today that did not work in this style.

So, what is this system or the Method? Much of what Stanislavski wanted to create was a direct rejection of the style of acting prior to the 20th century. There was much broad movement and oh-so-theatrical speech patterns that were meant to mimic other great actors of the day and simply “be theatrical” (think extreme Shakespearian acting.) What he wanted to create was a manner of portraying characters onstage that seemed real – performances that rang true rather than seen as acting. It took time, and his method of training changed often as it was developed, but by the time it came to North America, the overall method of this style was agreed upon. And it began with an emotional understanding of the role to be portrayed.

One of the problems Stanislavski ran into as he began training actors was the need for performances to remain consistent each night, but to also remain fresh. If you make a motion each night the same way, it can easily become habit rather than a reaction and the same can be said for a line reading or emotional response. In acting, the biggest thing to pay attention to is listening. If you listen, you can react. But if you are simply waiting for the next line, or your next cue, then you are only mimicking yourself from rehearsals. What Stanislavski trained his actors to do helped actors achieve a fresh performance each night without having to change words, emotions or movement that might naturally create that freshness.

So, where am I going with all this? Well, it goes back to that “emotion” - how to achieve an emotional response that is true when you already know what is about to happen. And that comes by knowing your character inside and out and understanding how they may react in any given circumstance. The best way to do this is by understanding motivation. As an actor, it is relatively simple to go through a text and do what is termed a “beat analysis.” This basically tries to peg in the written dialogue where the emotional changes happen or where the motivation becomes different for the character. Once you know that, you can then become comfortable with these changes and prepare yourself to find a truthful response at any given time, helped mostly by what was termed in American training as emotional memory, or recall of certain emotions, experiences and memories of your past and trying to fit that into your understanding of said character.

As writers, we do not have the luxury of someone else’s words to study in understanding our characters. We are making it up as we go along. But that does not mean that we can forget what the motivations are of these characters. Why is the King jealous of his wife? Why is the Duke angry with the King? Why does Joe need to join the army, and then why does he want out? If we write our characters with this knowledge already understood, then every action that they take in the AAR, every word spoken is part of the entire picture. It fits in the concept of what you wish to create.

The only way to do this is to develop your characters before they are put on the page. It is not necessary to know exactly what they will do before it is ever written, but it is necessary to figure out what arc you wish for them as characters and how their motivations take them there. You must know their likes and dislikes, what drives them, what their motivations are in response to the other characters they interact with, and these may be different each time. If they are confronted with an emotional scene, you need to know how they would react. Even if this changes over time, which is usually part of the character arc, you need to know why. And sure, there are always throw away characters, but even still, they should have something to do with the arc of a major character.

You can easily map out the structure of a person – knowing their hair color, their weight, their sexual appetites or their general feelings about war, death, food and/or weather. This is all part of that development. But then take all of that a step forward and ask yourself two things. One, what is the story I am trying to tell, and two, how will these people react inside this story to carry that out? When a side character decides to take a different action than you initially intended (which happens quite a lot) then you will know, if you have asked those questions, how the others will react to that change. When you decide that a scene needs to be different, then it is relatively easy to adapt the characters within the scene to that alteration.

And this ties back into Stanislavski above. Once you have developed the characters in your mind, then they are able to react rather than simply act as you want them to. The emotions that come out of that reaction will be that much more real than simply stating that this is what person A did and leaving it at that. You understand the motivations, the emotions and the desired result of each person that inhabits your work, and so does your readership. You have created a real person rather than a stereotype. You have created a character.

And in truth, this goes for each and every person in the story - again, even the throw away characters. Get to know all of them and you will know how all of them would react in any given circumstance. Find their level of emotional understanding, determine how much change you wish for them to make, figure out the different sides of each of them. No real character will be all good or all bad. And often times, what they say may not be what they feel. But their actions might be much more truthful than their words. Understand their motivations, and you can easily decide how to bring this across to the audience.

In the end, you want to develop real human beings, warts and all. Even the most evil character might have some warmth, unless you have decided that they would never do such a thing. But if that is the case, then understand why that would be. They are your creations for us to read about. If they are real creations with motivations like you and I have, that they react to their surroundings as you and I do, then we will believe them, perhaps understand them ourselves and even feel for or with them as they go through the trials and tribulations of the story you are trying to tell. Again, in writing a story your characters are everything. Without them, there is no story to tell.
 

Amric

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The Eye of the Hurricane<Amric>


Foods of the New World and Beyond​


The richest gift from the New World to the Old was not golden treasure but a wonderful variety of new crops. Corn, beans, squash, tomatoes, limes, avocados, chiles, peanuts, cashews, turkeys, pineapples, chewing gum, yams, potatoes, vanilla and chocolate all have their origin in the Americas. Before 1492, these foods were completely unknown in Europe and their introduction there by the early conquistadors made major changes in tastes and cuisine. Today it is hard to imagine spaghetti without tomato based sauces, movies without popcorn, hamburgers without french fries, the fourth of July without watermelon and corn on the cob and, of course, Christmas dinner without turkey. All of these were products of the New World, developed over a long period of time by the farmers of the Americas.

Native Americans and Mexicans were working with the haricot bean, a diverse category that includes runner beans, kidney beans and lima beans, and its adaptability helped it to become a stable crop.
There is evidence of peas that has been carbon dated back to 9750 BC, found by archaeologists Thailand. Evidence also exists that suggests that native people of Mexico and Peru were cultivating bean crops as far back as 7000 BC.
The use of lentils has been traced back as far as 6750 BC in parts of the present day Middle East. Chickpeas, lentils and Fava Beans have been found in Egyptian tombs that date back at least 4000 years. About the same time, (around 1500 BC) parts of present day Asia were growing and using soybeans.
All of the pre-Columbian people of the New World, relied on wild animals as a source of protein since domesticated animals were more the exception than the rule. When the first inhabitants came to the Western Hemisphere from Asia across the Bering Straits Land Bridge they brought only one domesticated animal; the dog.

The dogs of the Maya were all descendants of this single strain and served as hunting companions and household early warning systems. It is probable that certain varieties of dogs were fattened and eaten as were dogs in ancient Central Mexico. In addition to the dog, the Maya evidently raised doves, turkeys and the Muscovy duck. They may have also managed or tended other animals as food such as the coatimundi and deer. Bishop Diego de Landa in the sixteenth century reported that the Maya women in the Yucatan would: "raise other animals and let the deer suck their breasts, by which means they raise them and make them so tame so they will never go into the woods."
The archeological evidence suggests the deer population actually grew larger through time along with the human population probably because land clearing for agriculture opened up space for browsers and restricted the growth of predators. The archeological and paleontological evidence likewise makes it clear that there were no large wild animals such as pigs, cattle and horses available for domestication as they had, for reasons not clearly understood, all died out before the advent of man in the hemisphere some twelve to twenty thousand years ago. There were plenty of peccaries around (there still are) and although they are known locally as wild pigs, they are not pigs at all, but more closely related to the rhinoceros.

Other choices included most of the animals common to the land of the Maya today, with emphasis on deer (both white-tail and brocket), tapir, peccary, agouti, paca (fit for a queen, I'm told), squirrels, rabbits and manatee. A variety of birds were taken, including chachalaca, crested guan, turkey and curassow. Some were probably killed for their plumage rather than a source of meat: the Scarlet Macaw, quetzal and numerous parrots come to mind. The degree to which the Maya exploited aquatic resources is not easy to get at as fish remains do not preserve well in the acidic soils of the region.
Maize is a domesticated strain of wild grass, there is much debate over which grass it evolved from or who created the hybrid, but cobs have been found in archaeological excavations dating to 5000 BC. Corn has a higher yield than wheat, rice, barley or any other New World grain and was used to feed every Maya from slave to king. The Maya considered corn a gift from the gods and cultivating it was a sacred duty. The most sacred of stones, jade, was used to symbolize it and according to the sacred book of the Maya, Popol Vuh, man was made of corn.
Corn is basically a source of carbohydrate energy. When combined with beans (protein, iron and minerals), squash, and chile peppers (all the essential vitamins) you have just about everything the human body needs for good health. Now add fresh fruits and maybe some animal protein (pork, chicken, fish) and you have a rich multifaceted diet.
Let us not forget that corn was given to the Pilgrims who had come to Jamestown, so obviously maize/corn had traveled to the northern reaches of the Americas. Which tends to lend credence to the idea that there WAS trade between central, south, and northern natives of the various regions. Granted, cacao beans couldn’t and wouldn’t grow in the northern climes. But there has been evidence to suggest that it DID make its way as far north as the Lenape. BEFORE the Spaniards made it to the New World no less.

Which makes sense when you consider that watermelons and other bean crops had made it to the northern portion of the Americas as well. Think of this fact. No tomato pastes or other tomato products. No vodka made from potatoes either. Not yet, at least not until the potato was introduced to the Old World by the Spanish.

Chiles did NOT manage to make it up very far into northern America. The southern native tribes near the modern border of Mexico and the United States could have used them but it wasn’t a staple to most north American tribes. It was a staple for the Maya and to an extent the Aztecs.

Now earlier I mentioned rice as something that came from the New World. There are sources that disagree with that information. But if you consider the fact that the Polynesians were exploring LONG before the white man came to the coasts of the Pacific it is very possible that they might have brought the idea of rice to Asia. Or ancient Chinese sailors might have discovered rice from the ancient Maya. There have been tales told of strange ‘yellow’ visitors from beyond the seas that visited them and there was even some limited speculation that the ancient Chinese and Maya fought in the New World and the Chinese were cast out. Is it true? There is little archeological evidence to support the theory, only a very few odds and ends that made no sense to researchers many years ago and they threw them out, thinking they were fakes planted to confuse them.
If you consider that the pyramids of Egypt, the Maya/Aztec, and those in Southeast Asia have a great many similarities one must realize that there could very well have been a much wider area of trade between peoples in the Bronze Age than had ever been thought before. But is it true? That is something I leave to anyone to determine for themselves. I personally think that such speculation is true. It would explain a lot of unexplained things.
Such as bean crops in Asia that are very similar to those in the Americas. Yet those in Europe never received such bounty until the Spanish came to the Americas. Why? There is a great deal of speculation on this, but I can basically place it to the influence of the ancient Greeks. They believed that they were the center of the world, and they influenced so many peoples that they all picked up on this concept. Remember that it was the Old World of Europe that conquered and ‘colonized’ throughout the world, thinking that they were giving something great to the great unwashed hordes of savages around the globe. Let us not forget that the worlds of the Asians and Americas were just as old, but the white dominated media and so forth have declared Europe the old world and so it has stayed.
Food is something that we all need. The great variety of foods we can all now enjoy come from throughout the world and yet prior to certain points in history areas weren’t able to enjoy quite a few types of food stuffs because they didn’t know such existed.

Therefore when you are writing from certain areas of the globe remember that you can’t have certain foods unless it is past a certain point, or you get to the area that food is from BEFORE that date.
This isn’t a very long article, but it just popped into my head and I decided to write it. Enjoy.
 

Director

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Notes: (Director)
En Masse

In human affairs, power comes through unity. One man chanting is not as impressive and affecting as ten thousand chanting in unison. Whether you talk about a military march or an operatic crescendo, composers know that unison scoring – using many instruments of several different types to play a melodic line, all together – is powerfully effective. Even if we descend to a smaller scale and look at harmony, we find that apparent volume increases if the different instruments are ‘in tune’. If your instrument plays an ‘A’ at 440 hertz and mine at 442, we are both playing a note recognizable as ‘A’. But the difference in hertz – not apparent if we were playing separately – sounds sour and thin if we play together. Bad intonation happens for many reasons, musicians find it a constant struggle, and good intonation – playing exactly on pitch – is a hallmark of a good ensemble.

‘Power through unity’, then, can be directly linked back to physics. Effectiveness is measurably linked to precision in acting together. We can, for example, readily understand that our ten thousand chanting protesters have volume and power so long as they chant together and their effect is enhanced if they chant in rhythm. If we imagine that they each do their own thing and chant whatever and whenever they feel like it, we can understand that the result is simple ‘white noise’.



Most historians now believe that infantrymen of the Roman Empire were trained to march in step both on Roman roads and on the battlefield, probably aided by drums or some sort of legionary band. Their weapon-and-shield work was probably individualized, but since it was taught as a process of ‘shove-stab-step’, groups of soldiers undoubtedly found themselves working in unison with the lethal efficiency of a modern food processor. Later, troops of the Ottoman Sultan were trained to march in step to the boom of large kettle-drums (what we today call tympani). The power of unity can best be seen in the way that soldiers were forbidden to march in step over bridges lest the regular pounding of feet build up a standing wave and collapse the bridge.

During the so-called Dark Ages, this tradition of marching and acting in unison was largely lost in Western Europe. Infantry were mostly made up of peasant levies with crude weapons and used as a defensive center from which the all-important cavalry could operate. But as economic conditions and transportation improved through the renaissance, infantry was again used in aggressive campaigns, and they re-learned the value of marching and drilling together. Precision in footwork and equipment drill became the hallmark of a veteran, professional group.

Why is marching in step important? Given how long it can take some people to learn to march ‘in step’, why bother?

First, because marching with a standard length of stride to a regular beat helps control a mass of men. Left to their own they will become a mob and straggle up and down the road; formed into rows and columns they can be marched quickly and with a minimum of straggling. An army comprised of short, compact columns can reach the battlefield and deploy quickly (see Frederick the Great). An army with poor march discipline may find itself out-manuevered and unable to properly deploy for battle (see Agincourt, also the Austrian army of Napoleonic times; see the Franco-Prussian War).

Second, we must remember we are dealing with human beings, and homo sapiens is a social animal. Most religions use ceremonies that unite worshippers through unified action. Chanting, singing, kneeling, bowing heads, dancing and recitation are all unison activities that help a group of people feel that they are a group and a people. Given the high risk and stakes of war, it is not surprising that long-service troops should be psychologically bound into their units by any means possible. The unison movement of marching and drill helps bind humans into a group.

Third, because unison action increases the appearance of military power and its actuality. A line of pikes that swings down exactly together is more intimidating than a line that comes down over the course of a minute. Even if both sets of pike-armed troops are equally powerful our minds do not believe it – we instinctively impute greater power to the troop that acts together. A hundred cannon that fire in one rippling salvo is more impressive than a hundred firing separately, even if they deliver the same mass of projectiles. For reasons of physics and human psychology, mass and unison equal power.

Once this ‘technology’ of marching and acting in unison became common across Europe, other force multipliers came into play, especially with the introduction of chemically-powered weapons (gunpowder). Supplying, training and equipping large numbers of troops became the path to victory. Unfortunately, this wasn’t simple.



As formidable soldiers as we humans can be made into, we do require certain necessities if we are to gather and operate in large groups. Managing an army is a complicated, demanding and repetitive task that requires a well-trained staff to do well. Setting routes of march so that units don’t tangle up with each other, transporting or purchasing or stealing food, arranging for some sort of shelter in bad weather, caring for the sick and wounded and prisoners, keeping track of the camp followers, paying the men… well, the task is enormous.

As good as humans are at being soldiers, they are pretty miserable as pack animals. No soldier of ancient or modern times has ever been able to effectively campaign while carrying more than 40-50% of his body weight, some 50 to 80 pounds. Soldiers will enthusiastically throw away anything and everything to lighten their load (and complain loudly later, when they need the overcoat and blanket they tossed away). The most rigid discipline cannot make soldiers march and fight effectively when heavily laden, and even a heavily-laden soldier cannot carry more than a few days’ worth of food.

For supply needs, men turned first to ships and to domesticated animals. Ships and boats of course need water to travel on, and fair winds or large amounts of muscle power for propulsion. Domesticated animals (oxen, horses) are ideal for hauling supply wagons and can be eaten at need. The disadvantage is that these beasts of burden need fodder, a separate corps of men to handle and drive them, and usually require roads for the wagons.

Road-bound supply and water-borne to a lesser degree are dependent on good weather; heavy rainstorms can turn an unpaved road into churned mud. Wagons that get stuck must then be hauled out by soldiers or emptied and reloaded, often over and over. Added to the meager opportunities to forage in winter, this restriction of supply mobility effectively prevented armies from operating in winter. Motorized and mechanized armies only learned to operate in winter late in WWII, and none were very effective at overcoming the difficulties involved.

Since the limitations of transport affected both war and commerce (and commerce could be taxed to pay for war), rulers were constantly occupied with improving and extending roads, digging and dredging canals, and fortifying rivers. Marlborough’s epic march to and down the Rhine would never have been possible without transportation on that river; Alva’s troops in Flanders could never have been reinforced in the face of Dutch sea-power without the improvements made to the ‘Spanish Road’. Napoleon’s early triumphs were all achieved by rapid marching (120 steps per minute as opposed to the old-style 100) over a road network expanded by centuries of work. The very heart of the Napoleonic system was movement of independent units along parallel routes to converge on an objective. Only a century before, Europeans would have laughed at the notion of multiple, parallel roads.

Still, an army could not move supplies by animal-drawn wagon for more than a hundred miles or so, because after that distance the draft animals were carrying nothing but their own fodder and eating it all en route. The Thirty-Years War turned rulers away from pillaging and foraging, and the formal, inconclusive wars of Louis XIV and Frederick the Great were the result. Napoleon returned to foraging and pillaging out of necessity, but the scantiness of provisions in Spain and Russia proved his undoing.

Clearly, some better system was needed. In response, countries embarked on a campaign of canal-digging, lock-building and harbor improvement. Attempts were made to move canal-boats overland on rollers, and to slide them up and down hillsides on inclined planes. Then something better came along… the union of the steam engine and the railroad.

As it’s gotten rather long, I’ll stop here for now and resume next issue.
 

Director

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Notes: (Director)
If You Build It, Will They Come?

Okay, all kidding aside… where ARE you people?

I’d better warn you now that this is something of a rant, and a whiny one at that. I’m going to acknowledge up-front that I may sound ungrateful, and I’m going to ask you to read this with an open mind. You see, I don’t really mean to offend anyone. I’m just… frustrated. And I am deliberately going to be a little abrasive and provocative, so try not to take it personally, OK? Right, then… here we go.


We’ve asked people before what they like about AARland. One of the most common responses is that they like the various ‘special projects’ that we have from time to time. The Free Company, the bAAR, the OscAARs, Guess the Author and the Gazette are examples of special projects, but not an exhaustive list. These projects are special in that they are different from the ‘normal’ AARs; they work more on the concepts of developing writing skills, developing as an author and coming together as a community. They’re also special in that there is nothing like them anywhere else on the forum, or for that matter on other gaming forae.

The problem is that, while people say they like special projects, they don’t always read them. And if they do read them, they don’t often comment. In short, people, we may like being spectators but we don’t often participate. Since this place runs on the currency of attention, lack of attention allows these projects to go bankrupt.

No, I don’t have many illusions about the Gazette. I’m the one who handed ‘Guess the Author’ off to Secret Master and who ended ‘Author’s Choice’ because we didn’t have many participants. And you’ve all heard me rant about the OscAARs. The Gazette has more in common with the average college newspaper than it does with the New York Times – it’s free, depends on contributed articles and is a little narrow in its group of contributors. Not that we haven’t tried to get more people to contribute, mind you…

So what’s the problem here? I put a lot of effort into ‘Author’s Choice’, but it got to be such a drag emailing and nagging people for a quote. I have put a lot of time and effort into the Gazette, to the detriment of my own writing and other projects. I’m not begging for compliments here – I’d rather have constructive criticism or even complaints. I’ll settle for simple comments that show that someone is reading!

So here’s your chance, folks. The Gazette will continue as long as people write for it (people like you) and read it and comment about it. If we aren’t writing about the topics that would interest you, tell us. Be active for a change! If you don’t, the Gazette will go the way of the other exhibits in the AARland museum, in a glass case gathering dust alongside the others. Everyone will say, ‘What a shame! The forum used to be so much fun back then!” And then everyone will sit around waiting for someone else to do something, and eventually we’ll drift away from boredom.

To further the concept I used before, AARland has become a boulevard of closed shops, out of business because people didn’t spend the money – attention – to keep them in business. Be very clear about this: AARland is and will be the community you make it. It can be a place that is active, vital and interesting, or it can be a part of the forum no-one goes to at all, and the choice is entirely ours. Paradox does not care if we don’t have awards, reviews, writing exercises, helps, hints, tips and stories. They will not provide any of this for us, but they have given us the magnificent gift of a space in which to have these things.

Frankly we aren’t doing much with their gift right now. If that’s the way the people want it – the way you want it – then that’s how it will be. If you’d like to be stimulated, entertained and enlightened instead, you’ll have to pay for it by reading and commenting, or by going into business with a shop of your own.

That’s the ugly side of a participatory community; you get what you pay for. So – please – let us know if you like what you read. Better yet, tell us what you don’t like, and why, and offer some suggestions of your own.

Best of all, write your own article and tell me how and why I’m wrong. Boost a good AAR by writing a review, or commenting on it in the bAAR.

But for the love of AARland, do something.
 

CatKnight

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Letters from the Cat (by CatKnight)

It Takes a Forum to Raise a WritAAR​


My article is Coz1's fault.

He contacted several people a few weeks ago and asked if we'd like to become columnists. I was pleased. I was flattered! So after some soul searching looking for something AARish to write about out popped 'A Dirty Business.' If he hadn't said anything, that article would never exist.

About two days after my first article I started receiving comments. People I knew, liked and respected said they liked it. My girlfriend called me the 'Alistair Cooke of Gaming.' That's, of course, far too generous - but it still warmed my heart...and made me think.

In my brief stint on these boards I've met people from all around the world. I've seen laborers, secretaries and lawyers happily debating and comparing notes. Rich and poor. Liberal and conservative. Not quite insane and not quite sane. If we met on the street someone would say something .. undiplomatic .. and that would be the end to all order. If you don't believe me, you don't attend the OT boards often enough. So why do we stick together? Where do these most unlikely camaraderies spring up?

Well, communication is one good answer. However, writing an article is hard work, and an AAR isn't much better. Any writer, not just here but on all the other threads, boards, blogs, logs and anything else you care to name is putting a part of their soul on the line every time they click 'send.' There's no guarantee people will care for what you have to say. The world's full of commentators who think they have something useful to offer and end up proving their own stupidity. (It must be nice to be paid for being an idiot.) Our hope, I think, is that someone somewhere will see something they like and let us know. A comment to an AAR or article is a validation, proof that the writer isn't wasting his or her time...and maybe a salve for loneliness. Writing is a lonely task - until the first draft is done there is no one on this planet who can help you. It's you, your keyboard, some notes, and your imagination ... and if you don't like it or your mind starts to wander or (worse) think about other matters like your unpaid bills, welcome to Writer's Block Penitentiary. Population: 1.

So why put up with that when you could just as easily watch the TV, listen to the radio, or read a book? "Because my game is cool!" Well, yes...but we've all seen cool games. "Because I like Paradox!" You're preaching to the choir.

I can't answer that for you, your reasons may be different than mine. I'll tell you my reason though. Because I know on the far side of my article or my AAR are my friends who want to know 'what happens next.' And, since my telepathic license expired last year, I know that because they told me so... and because we communicate, over time we've established a community.

People have suggested in the past that ideally the writer presses on regardless of readers or apparent interest. I seem to remember once early on agreeing with this sentiment. Well..that sounds great on paper, but let's be honest. It's a lie. The writers who bravely press through one hundred thousand words in relative silence don't come to Paradox's boards, and would probably sneer at our amateurish 'writer's club.' Then they'd drink or smoke or take drugs to salve their own loss, and die at some ridiculously early age with a reputation for being a recluse. Again, if you don't believe me look around. History's on my side.

I would argue that comments, suggestions and occasional help are mandatory to the development of a good writer. If we're a community, then we have a social obligation to support each other in this fashion. A writer needs a solid support system to thrive, and since he or she's writing on Paradox's boards, you're elected. Congratulations.

Now, I noticed earlier Director makes a similar argument for the Gazette. (We didn't coordinate on this, I'm actually headed in a different direction.) Director's right of course, and if you've read this very Gazette for awhile you know the 'readers should comment' argument is actually pretty old. I believe his point - and certainly mine - is this: A community has to stick together, or it will fall. We'll simply implode into our little cliques of close friends, living out relatively isolated forum existences. It's for that reason the different boards for the different games were brought together, to encourage cross-readership.

That's also one of the reasons we're trying to bring back the Weekly Showcase. What better way to mix up and coming writers with the veteran old guard, and show everyone just what our community has to offer?

Now, there are problems with any award system, but perhaps the greatest vulnerability is participation. One of the reasons the OscAARs failed is voters weren't reading all the entries. The old Showcase, according to a moderator I spoke with, failed for this reason. The 'Fan of the Week,' which was supposed to run itself, finally stuttered as well. WritAAR of the Week's survived through constant attention, and that's the only way a Showcase will survive.

So what is this wonderful Showcase (2005 edition?) Well, as before it's meant to highlight a specific AAR. It's different from WritAAR of the Week in that while the Showcase concentrates on a single 'story', the WoW focuses on the contributions of a writer, perhaps over time. It's a place for AARs that deserve everyone's attention, and a place for our newer writers to earn their due. Here's how it will work:

* An AAR (rather than a writer) is selected. The selector should give us some basic information, such as which game it's for, what time frame we're dealing with, and so forth. It'd also be helpful if the selector included a link.

** If possible, the writer of the AAR shouldn't have received the WoW award for awhile. If the two awards start parroting each other, then we've really defeated the purpose.

** If possible, the winning AAR should be for a different game than the last one. This is mainly for variety's sake - we don't want the Showcase falling into a rut.

* After one week the writer of the last winning AAR will choose his or her successor, just like WoW.

This will probably need refining or developing over time, and I certainly welcome your comments on the Gazette board. Remember, these awards only work if you want them to work, and only if we as a community work together to make it so. Awards, along with comments, are a great way to provide feedback and let people know you're paying attention.

Support your writers. They need you.
 
Last edited:

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Recommended reading
Three Countries One Goal by Storey

Storey carries the custom title of StoreytellAAR and it is an apt one. I have read three or four Storey AARs and they are all immensely entertaining yarns. Of these, I picked ‘Three Countries One Goal’ to look at for two reasons. One is simply that it hasn’t been done yet (Director discussed ‘Who Killed Cologne’, and stnylan did ‘A Tall Tale Told on a Cold Night’). The other reason is that it’s a bit different from most AARs, in that it is not story-driven. For more on that, let’s have a quote from Storey’s first post:


Storey said:
This is not a character driven AAR.
This is not a story driven AAR.
This is not a comedic AAR.
Well all right there might be some humor at times but it isn’t going to be the focus of this AAR.
This is not a cute cuddly want to take home type of AAR.

There will be no deep inner meaning causing the reader to have to read between the lines in order to figure out what the hell this is all about. This is simply a study in tactics when playing a rotation of three countries in ten-year turns. How good will the AI be when it has to pick up the pieces that I leave behind and visa-versa? The focus is more on what the AI does rather than what I do. I wrote a similar type of AAR in EU 1 and the AI was mixed in how it did so lets try it again. Oh and I’m adding a little twist in that I’m giving the same goal to all three countries.

Domination of the Mediterranean and Black Sea provinces.
Sounds straightforward enough, doesn’t it? A simple examination of the game mechanics, featuring Georgia, the Mamelukes and the Papal States. Given that this was written halfway into 2003, you might be wondering why people would bother with this particular AAR. After all, the game was over a year old by then, so most people weren’t looking for playing tips in AARs anymore. And with the near-suicidal, crash-and-burn playing style that Storey seems to prefer, it’s questionable that anybody would want to follow his gaming style (apologies to Storey in advance)…

So, you won’t read ‘Three Countries One Goal’ for its beautiful storyline and you won’t read it for deep insights into the underlying mechanics of EU2. Oh, and the very sparse screenshots have since disappeared, which some people might find disappointing. Why read it at all? Because, as suggested at the start, Storey is a consumate storyteller. A spinner of yarns. Whether he is venting his frustrations with the game, airing his inventive (or should that be demented?) similes or replying to the readers’ postings, he always does so in an entertaining way. Not necessarily in a truthful way, one suspects, but certainly an entertaining one.


Storey said:
Crimea
a. A song by Justin Timberlake called “Cri me a River”
b. A region and peninsula of southern Ukraine on the Black sea
Every update starts with a ‘dictionary entry’ like the one above. They are nonsensical and some stick right in your mind. For example, even though it’s been a year and a half, I still hear Mr Timberlake’s falsetto in my head whenever I read or hear about the Crimea anywhere. And that can be mightily distracting when you are watching a Discovery documentary on the German siege of Sebastopol in World War Two, let me tell you…

On the topic of the Crimea, one of the enduring highlights of this AAR is the vampiric resurrection of that nation, continually crushed and annexed when Storey controls Georgia, ever rebelling away from it when Storey is elsewhere. Watching Storey ‘deal’ (or, to be honest, not deal) with that is hoot. To give but one example of that:


Storey said:
Phoenix
a. An ass wipe of a country called Crimea
b. A mythical bird consumed by fire only to later rise renewed from its ashes
And the descriptions get even less flattering after that. But there are many, many gems, especially when Storey plays up his (supposed) advanced age. References to phonograms, slide rulers, walking to school on bare feet, Storey’s imagination is a blooming garden (full of highly illegal flora).

There really isn’t that much more to say. No involving plot, no deep characters, no rich historic descriptions. I don’t even remember which country emerged as the winner, but this AAR is clearly a case of journey over destination. If work or some other manifestation of Real Life has been getting you down lately and you’d like an easy, quick read with some funny remarks, you could do far worse than invest some time into ‘Three Countries One Goal’.

Asked for a reaction, Storey had this to say:


Here’s my take on that roller coaster of a ride.

Laziness. Yup I’d just written a character driven AAR and didn’t have the energy to write another one. So this AAR was just a way of showing how to play EU II in a different way and have fun. As to the style it was basically free association. Little if any writing before I played and just an honest reaction to what the AI did to my country while I was away, which for some strange reason some readers found funny. Nothing like watching someone slip on a banana peel to bring a smile to your face I always say. :D
Here’s the link:
Three Countries One Goal
 

Amric

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The Eye of the Hurricane<Amric>

Victoria: My Trials and Tribulations​

I was recently in a half price bookstore looking for some books. I know, what does this have to do with Vicky? I’m getting there, so be patient. I’m wandering about the store when I notice they have a software section as well. So I start looking for a newer version of Norton Systemworks. I don’t find that. Not anything from Symantec. McAfee stuff of course.

But what do I spy? A stack of Victoria! For a mere seven dollars I can buy it! I’d heard Vicky was difficult to learn how to play, which is what had kept me from shelling out the nearly thirty dollars when it first came out. I’m a gamer who likes things simple. I LOVE Doom. Simple game to play. I DESPISE Half Life. Not only can you move the guy, but you can move the gun all over the place! I like simple point and shoot. If I wanted more realism I’d hunt people for real! Geez!

So I buy a copy of Vicky. I figure if I don’t like it all I’ll be out is seven dollars. So I skip a lunch. Big deal. I begin with reading the manual. Beautiful thing. But for me it is only marginally useful. It gives good information, but not all that much HOW to really play the game. I don’t know how to use it yet. Okay, the EUII manual was kind of like that as well, only not as complex. I install the game. Which takes awhile. But I am atwitter with anticipation.

I fire up the game. I go to single player. Oops! No tutorial! What the blazes?! No tutorial? Okay, after a while of irritated cursing I sigh and load up a Texas as my nation of choice. I pause the game and spend a couple of hours delving through the confusing myriad of menus. Oh, I’ve unpaused as I fiddle with settings, sliders, and experiment for awhile. I get a message from Mexico asking for a white peace. Wait! I’m at WAR with Mexico? How did I not notice this all important information?

Durned if I know. I wasn’t looking at my troops. Which meant I had two armies in Mexican territory dug in and twiddling their thumbs. Santa Ana was sitting one province south of San Antonio. Doing nothing. For YEARS, until I clicked yes to the question of whether I wished a white peace. If I wasn’t brand new to Vicky I’d feel like a fool. I’m embarrassed enough as it is, so I try to figure out how to build factories and so forth. I enlarge cattle ranches, but although I have farmers, laborers and such I still can’t figure out how to PUT farmers into the bloody cattle ranches!

I have a few factories already. I didn’t build them though. I can expand the, but again I can’t figure out how to put people into them! I convert some farmers into laborers, hoping that works. Doesn’t seem to do a thing though. Not sure what I am doing wrong though. Very frustrating. I do finally figure out how to build troops. Finally! Of course they don’t show a building troops idon like EUII. I can live with that, I suppose. But they don’t SHOW up in the province you build them in when they are done EITHER! I couldn’t figure out what had gone wrong until I had built SIX 10k divisions! You have to hit the go to button like thingie when the message box shows up!

This displays a screen where you can click a button marked deploy all units to home. Or something like that, actually. Then they appear for your use. I also found that merging them creates one big army. No problem. Until I wanted to split them up, to move them to different locations. Couldn’t do it. I figure it CAN be done. But I don’t know HOW to do it! Still don’t know how to do it, either!

I had some trouble with the trading screen. There is a blue million things that you can buy or sell. You can set the amounts of items you either buy or sell. Okay, I thought I understood. But you MUST be careful! It will keep selling or buying CONSTANTLY. It took a LOT of trial and error to get a real handle on this whole deal. Its far more complicated than EUII , believe me!

If you let the AI do your buying and selling you could find yourself in desperate need of something like…small arms. Or canned food at a time when you have to call up a division<read that as create> during a war and you don’t have enough to do it. After you thought you had carefully hoarded enough, you find out different. Very disconcerting to say the least. Believe me, it is horrifying to learn that you can’t build troops because you don’t have the resources! I purely hate to give up territory. It irks me. But to have to do it because I was stupid really puts a mighty dent in my ever so fragile ego. Needless to say I took a MUCH closer look at the trading menu from then onward! I also found that you DO want to sell things but keep stock you need to put it <the slider> really high. Say 1000? With small arms I want a lot in case I need a lot. More is better, in my opinion.

Crime Fighting is VERY important! I’d rather scrimp on other thigns and max this slider out. Why? Less pesky troubles and less chance of a revolt. Can I base this on anything more than my own limited experience and gut instinct. I’m not a fan of anything that causes trouble. I once had mafia arrive near my oil wells in Houston. I was not amused! I bumped my crime fighting up to the max. This will not keep corruption or other crimes from happening. It DOES seem to alleviate them and definitely appears to shorten their duration.

Education is something I also spend on. A better educated population is more capable of working in factories. I ignored education early on and my literacy rater seemed to hover between 18 to 20 percent. I don’t want morons running around. So I learned my lesson the only way I know how. The hard and painful way.

Now I’ve tried to buy provinces from other nations. Haven’t managed it yet. I suppose it MIGHT help to have stellar relations with them first. I haven’t tried that yet. My abilities with diplomacy are a bit weak right now. I haven’t done much other than declare war. I’m going to do more with it when I get a chance. Count on it. I do have to add that since I started this article that I DID figure out to get my finished divisions to show up. If I didn’t deploy them immediately I originally couldn’t find them. I can now, though!

Which brings me to an interesting little story. I had started playing as the US. I decided to use this as an opportunity to make an emerging CSA stronger. So I built railroads through the south and built factories. I also tried to make the CSA emerge sooner. SO I dropped crime fighting, defense spending, and army maintenance to zero. I whacked every army division and the navy as well.

Well I got revolts. For over 10 years. But no early CSA. So I built some army divisions and cleaned up the historical north. I did not have Texas. No CSA. It arrived at its regular time. I save and start playing as the CSA. No Lee. No Longstreet. No Jackson. No Stuart. I was pissed! I have armies. I am winning. I have the entire Midwest. I win the war. In spite of numerous little northern divisions harassing me.

I wait until the truce is over and I DOW the US. I want Charleston and Wheeling. I kick butt. I have an 84 percent warscore. They continue to REFUSE to give me those two little provinces. I have little divisions all over and the northern troops keep popping up years after I have occupied the provinces. I am thinking the AI is cheating. Then I remembered you don’t see a built icon when troops are being made. But after a few years they shouldn’t keep popping up. Now I’m thinking the US is building troops in occupied territories! But what if they had built divisions and never MOBILIZED them? That would help explain why US troops kept popping up in occupied provinces! It’s a truly diabolical plot to frustrate me. It is like a time bomb. I occupy the province but enemy troops keep appearing!

It makes me wonder if you create a division in a province you lose to another nation if they just sit there? If you are at war with them again if you could then activate them? That might be something to check out. Back to the story. Nothing I did made the US give me those two measly provinces! So I saved and reloaded as the US. Within a year the CSA demanded those two plus Cincinnati, Evansville, and one more I can’t remember. I took it and saved to come back as the CSA. Problem solved, finally! I had enough of revolts because the AI refused a very reasonable peace offer. BTW, the supposed Neville cheat doesn’t work to make the AI accept peace. At least not in regular 1.00

I HAVE noticed the AI has a tendency to offer provinces I haven’t been near. Just like EUII. Mexico offered me as Texas San Francisco, the two Baja California provinces, and 1 central American province along with historical Texas provinces I wanted. I said no and only asked for historical Texas territory. Even with a 74 percent warscore they said no. So when they offered me more than I wanted again. I took it. Id idn’t need to drag on a war for no purpose.

I also found with the CSA my factories would automatically fill. I don’t know how to step auto doing such, or forcing farmers to become clerks or whatever. It only seems I can make farmers into laborers or soldiers. Etc, etc. I still don’t know how to create clerks. Yet. Give me time. I am becoming hooked on trying to learn how to play this game. You know you’ve put time into it when you come home from work sit down and play until 1 in the morning. Smoking, cursing, and glaring at anyone who bothered me. It’s a curse I tell you!

I have not mastered Victoria. Not yet, anyway. But at the time of writing this I’ve only had the game for about a week. I’ve only played it for maybe 12 hours. I had originally felt when it first was released that I might not like it. Now, after I’ve tried it I cay say I DO like the game. Yes, it is a steep learning curve. There is indeed a TON of micromanaging to do and deal with, but I am getting the hang of it. Albeit slower than I would like. But then it isn’t EUII. Nothing like it, actually. In some ways better, while in others different. The colors are terrific. The ability to interact more with other nations than in EUII is very cool. All in all I highly recommend getting it if you don’t already have it!

Be prepared to tear out your hair in frustration at times, but when you new hair plugs have healed you’ll really enjoy playing the game. It’s a blast to play.
 

Amric

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The Eye of the Hurricane<Amric>

Victoria: Redux​

I’ve gotten a brief opportunity to do more screwing around with the game. I’ve managed to do a very quick and dirty perusal of the Vicky General Discussion Forums. I’ve learned quite a bit more. Such as you CAN beat the North in the House Divided Scenario. If you do it right, that is. By trading territory for time.

What do I mean? I paused the game. Then I moved my troops to the deep south. No point in losing men this early. I trade for some small arms. I set my sliders to get more tax from the people. I set tariffs to max. I expand my RGOs. I know there are those who feel expanding them is a waste. I’ll explain later why I feel this is wrong.

I start building infantry divisions in the deep south. When they are ready I am going to fold them into my ‘name’ generals’ armies. I unpaused and cringe as the Union rampages through Virginia and Tennessee. But by the time they get to me my armies are fresh, large, and ready to send the blue boys packing. Jackson and Lee are terrific; they slaughter virtually everything they meet.

Having a 50k army backing either of them makes them seemingly unbeatable. They crushed every Union army stupid enough to get in their way. Stuart and Longstreet I send to clean up Texas and Louisiana. AP Hill handles West Tennessee. Lee marches on DC, and takes it. Jackson ravages Pennsylvania. Stuart races into Wisconsin. AP Hill sacks Detroit. The Union navy is a non factor. They never go south of Chesapeake Bay! I don’t know why they didn’t, but they never do.

The Union gives in by early 1864. I take Kentucky, Missouri, New Mexico, and Arizona. Independence is achieved! Know what? I’m in the black! I haven’t gone into debt! I have to take some time to figure this out. I finally realized that by occupying Union territory I got their production during that time. Which I was busy selling on the WM apparently. Making obscene amounts of money.

Which brings me back to RGOs. I expanded mine, and still do. Because raw materials can be sold on the world market! If you produce a lot, you make money! Right now I’ve played until the 1890’s as the CSA. Yes, the second time I’ve played the CSA. I haven’t fought a true war since. I conquered Hawaii, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic. I make mover 2000 a DAY on the world market. I have a MASSIVE surplus of cash. I’ve built a few factories. I THINK I have 25 in all. But I’m number two in industrial might. I’m first in military strength and I am first in prestige!

Remember, no more wars with the US. None with Mexico. In fact I found out that buying provinces gains prestige! Grant at the moment I am using version 1.00 but this might hold true for all the betas as well. I bought Cuba from Spain. Hell I bought the entire Caribbean from the various nations that owned pieces of it. Other than Cuba I don’t think I spent over 150k for everything in the Caribbean. I bought five provinces from Mexico. Two of them to reach the Pacific. The other three was to gain iron, coal and sulfur.

I bought Alaska from Russia. I claimed land next to it and bought UK claims to form British Columbia. My prestige soared. I’m not sure why it was like this, but it was very cool! So I have quite a bit of territory, a limited amount of factories and lots of natural resources.

Ergo, I make out like a bandit on the world market. As I mentioned before I make enough on the world market to pay for ALL my expenditures. Which freed up tons of cash for my land acquisitions. Now I am by no means an expert at this game. I’m sure you can make more money from factories, in the long run. I know the factories I have are going flat out. Except for a couple that have no workers in them. So I stopped building factories.

I haven’t been able to promote laborers or farmers to clerks. My literacy rate is about 65 percent. I have Union armies in every province bordering me. I have larger armies facing them. I STILL make money. I have a bit of a navy. Ironclads and steamer transports. I don’t have huge amounts of them. I’m not really going for world conquest or domination. I’m still learning the game.

I have learned that you NEVER let the AI handle the trading. I also know that if you set grain to sell at 200 it will sell everything you produce beyond that figure. I know that stacking up troops with a ‘name’ leader makes them really good. I’ve learned that you can reinforce your divisions even as far away as Detroit! Nothing better than having three divisions down to about 2k apiece become strong again with this method. As long as you have the manpower, that is, of course.

I’ve seen people lament that the CSA doesn’t really have enough manpower. I didn’t find this so, as I have far more than I need. So to speak. I was never in any true danger of running out of manpower. I had more trouble having enough canned food, small arms, and other resources. Manpower isn’t the biggest problem. Having enough stuff to EQUIP them is far more of a problem. At least in my opinion.

I had to import stuff at the start. The only thing I have to import now is machine parts. I’ve been researching fast, and as hard as I can. I DO know you can plunge ahead by buying tech from other nations. I’ve not done that this time, so far. I do have railroads everywhere. Not the experimental kind either.

It helps to have timber provinces, lumber mills, cement factories, and steel factories. I have those. Hence the buying of the Northwestern Canadian region, bits of Mexico, and I already owned a LOT of coal mines. Resources are the key in Victoria to unlock wealth. You have to have them to build factories and produce goods. There is no point to have a steel factory if you don’t own an iron producing province and a coal province. You’d have to import both to make your own steel. Its smarter to just buy the steel. Cheaper too!

Of course you COULD take such provinces from someone else. If you can. If they are close enough o you to do any good. Why build a furniture factory if you don’t own a timber producing province? I’ll bet some of you built a lumber mill and don’t have a timber province. So you buy timber to feed that lumber mill to feed that furniture factory. That is a waste of resources. Buy lumber on the world market if you really have to have a furniture factory.

If you don’t own a sulfur province why would you build an ammunition factory? Unless you buy sulfur on the world market, that is, but wouldn’t it just be simpler to buy the ammunition? I have seen quite a few laments about factories not producing. Well if you don’t have the resources then why have the factory? I’ve found that by streamlining the entire process you make a lot more money!

Cotton is used to make clothing. You need coal to make dye. Which doesn’t make sense to me, but so be it. I don’t have a dye factory. It doesn’t appear in my list of factories I can build. So I don’t have one. But I produce almost 100 cotton a DAY. It goes mostly to the WM. I produce about 80 cattle a day. Some goes to my canned food factories. The rest, minus my surplus, goes on the WM. I keep an eye on how much I( produce, how much I use and the excess, minus my artificial surplus in case of emergency goes to the WM. Money. Eat your heart out Donald Trump! 

In my humble opinion it is incredibly important to know what resources your nation has first. Then figure out how you can capitalize on them. Build factories that can use those resources. Sell the excess. Buy finished product on the WM. Don’t buy sulfur to make ammunition when you could be buying ammunition instead! Always buy machine parts. I set mine to 1000 to buy. I think the overall AI takes large orders more seriously than small ones. I haven’t truly run out of machine parts. I attribute this to my strategy of buying in bulk. Obviously there is never 1000 machine parts to buy at one time. But I get enough in my grubby hands to satisfy my modest needs.

Efficient, streamlined use of resources is the way to ensure that you maximize your use of cash as well as the aforementioned resources. It sounds easy, doesn’t it? It isn’t quite that simple. First you go into the trading screen and set everything you don’t want to deal with to buy at 0. That way you don’t buy anything you don’t want. Whatever you want to sell set the amount you wish to keep. Such as say 200 and it will sell everything beyond that. It is EXTREMELY important to NOT let the AI handle your trading!

Now you have to work on your budget sliders. I keep my education and crime fighting pegged to the far right. But you might choose a bit differently. I WOULD suggest you keep them BOTH beyond 50 percent. I set my social at 100 percent even though there is no actual expenditures going on there. I set my defense around 50 percent and army and navy maintenance around there as well unless I am at war. I am always researching something! When one thing is done I get another going right away. Of course that presumes you can afford to do so. I set my tariffs all the way to the right. Taxes for poor, middle, and rich are all pegged a hair below 50 percent.

MONEY! Ka-ching! Now you can build and improve your factories. Close any that you don’t have resources for, there is no reason to have an ammo factory if you don’t have the sulfur. Infrastructure. I can’t emphasize this enough! In EUII you pay for it and it is presumed things happen. In Vicky YOU make it happen! Build that experimental railroad. Even if you think that you want to wait until you can get a better one, don’t do it! Why? Because you will have to build it anyway before you can build a better one!

Plus it gives you a chance to build up your resources to build the next level of railroad. Plan ahead. Keep those all important resources flowing. Railroads improve the efficiency of your factories and RGOs. At least that is what I’ve read and it certainly seems to be true. Without enough raw materials your factories can’t produce large quantities of goods. Which can also be sold on the WM to fuel your ever burgeoning cash flow. More cash means you can do more. Want to speed up the process to get the next level of railroad? Buy tech from another nation! It’s not terribly expensive and it can help leapfrog you. You have to have the tech points<or at least 0 in 1.00>, but it sure can be handy!

Buy that iron producing province you’ve been eyeing. Cheaper than a war that you might actually lose, or allies of that nation piling up on you. Sulfur? Buy one of those too! Just make sure you have the ability to use them. I understand shipping convoys are important, but I’ve lost where you get those. It isn’t apparently affecting me. At least not yet, anyway.

Wow, I’m beginning to sound almost like an expert! I don’t say that I am. Not by any stretch of the imagination. But the resource management of Vicky reminds me somewhat of a game called Industry Tycoon. A game requiring knowledge of raw materials needs, manufacturing needs, transportation needs, and retail needs. It was a fun game. I like Vicky better. But that earlier game DID prepare me to use the Vicky resources more efficiently. At least I believe it does, anyway.

Hey, I’m having fun, learning the game, and now I’m continuing to urge those of you who haven’t picked up Vicky to go out and do so! Remember, I’m the guy who likes simple. One of my favorite games is Ms. Pacman. But as complex as Vicky is, once you TRULY understand how to manage your resources I feel there is no way not to make piles of cash to finance whatever project you desire. Perhaps the conquest of Europe?

Who knows? Only your imagination can limit you once you have the resource management key! My only true lament now is that it only say which party wins an election. I have no idea WHO is actually the leader of the country! But it is only a small quibble. I’ll live with it and ENJOY the game. Such as the little touches that the Paradox programmers who did quite a bit of homework have included. The option for the CSA to buy Cuba is cool. Although the event didn’t seem to fire. I bought Cuba, but I had to initiate the process.

Allowing the abolishment of slavery in the CSA. Three options are possible. No, don’t do it, gradual emancipation, or sudden emancipation. Such has been speculated for over a hundred years that the south, had they won, would have had to emancipate the slaves. Paradox paid attention, and I like that. Johan and his merry band of code smiths have lovingly crafted a well thought out game.

There have been people clamoring for EUIII. Vicky IS EUIII folks. Just a different era. Many options people wanted in a new EUIII are here in Vicky. More diplomatic options. The ability to control what you trade. Different types of wars. Different kinds of alliances. The ability to BUY land from other nations. You still have warfare, but you have TYPES of troops and ships! You’ve asked for it. It’s here in Victoria!

Will the Paradox folks take the Vicky model and use it for a EUIII? I don’t know. But whereas EU was the ‘test bed’, if you will, Vicky is the modern up to date marvel. I know there will be those who will claim HOI and HOI2 are even better. I can’t say. I have HOI, and I didn’t really get it. I lost the manual. Hell, I don’t even know where the DISK is, to be honest.

But there is something about Vicky, that while reminiscent of EU EUII, is yet different as well as very appealing. Vicky has languished, not intentionally by Paradox but Strategy First, and didn’t and hasn’t received the attention from gamers that she richly deserves. Yes, stories abound in the Vicky AAR section. There is a hotbed of talk and strategy in the General Discussion Forum. There are mods for her as well. Granted. But there are as many new AARS in the EUII forms as there are in Vicky.

Don’t get me wrong. I still LOVE EUII. I always will. Perhaps it is the complexity of Vicky that scare people? Yet the HOI’s are as complex, if not more so. I don’t understand it. There are those who hate EUII and love EU. Yet Victoria, in my opinion, surpasses them both easily in what options a player has and can do. Perhaps the AI is too tough to beat in war? Nah. I believe it is the resource management that intimidates most people.

They see a blue million items in the trading screen and freak out. I did as well. But I just broke it down to manageable pieces. By thinking as a trader as well as a warrior, you can do it. If you’ve ever played Trade Wars than Vicky can be mastered. Yes, Vicky has more resources. So what? Just do like I suggested earlier with trade and you’ll be just fine. Don’t let the sheer amount of items frighten me.

Weren’t you the one who made the Byzantine Empire survive and flourish? Didn’t you turn Genoa into a powerhouse? England humbling France in the 100 years war was your doing. Japanese samarai cutting off Tibetan heads was your thing. Keeping the Aztecs alive and flourishing wouldn’t have happened without you. What do you have to fear? Failure? Bah! How long did it take before you could take a one province minor and turn it into a powerhouse? You CAN master Victoria! Sure, it takes time. But then you didn’t just hop onto a bicycle and start riding, did you? Everything worth learning and mastering takes time. It will take time to master Vicky. I admit it. But once you have her firmly leashed to your will and you’ll be cavorting wherever you please.

Go BUY Victoria right now and learn to play her like a Stradivarius violin. You’ll thank me later.
 

coz1

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The GenAARal Idea (coz1)

Looking Back

As this issue marks a full year of serving up AARticles to AARland in this Gazette, I thought I would take a moment to ponder what we have or have not achieved. The purpose of this Gazette was to promote cross forum interest and assist in building a better community sense among the very different and separate games and the people who wrote about them. To that aim, I think we have succeeded slightly but by and large, we have found no better or worse an atmosphere than existed twelve months ago.

I see that there is certainly more cross forum interest, though I don’t see how our effort really caused that. Assisted, yes. And for that, we can be proud. But as for community, I don’t see that we have accomplished much other than to bring a few like-minded people together. And I would have to observe, that many of those people were familiar with such an ideal due to their time in the old EUII area. For the others…well, I don’t see it.

I think much of the work we have done has and will assist the newer writer, and even the older ones. And for that, we can pat ourselves on the back. But I don’t know if that was something that could not have been accomplished elsewhere, say the SolAARium. As well, I am most proud of our efforts to renew the reviews. At this time, we have already doubled the amount of AAR reviews that were in existence from the first go around of that effort. But I wonder how many people then went on to read the work we wrote about? How many will see these reviews going forward?

In truth, much of the goals for the Gazette were ones that Alexandru, Amric and I imposed on the project. We never put down a solid goal in the form of a mission statement, but many of the first AARticles dealt with the community and how it was going, if it would flourish or stagnate, and what could we do about that. We still see these AARticles from time to time, mostly from myself and Director. What we wanted then and what we still desire is a more solid sense of community amongst everyone – EUI all the way to HoI2.

That has not been accomplished that I can see. Part of that may be that not everyone reads the Gazette. We don’t desire this in order to get our personal kudos. We desire this so that it becomes a place for everyone to both voice their opinions in a longer format and to discuss with others the direction, state and future of AARland. If only a few people are doing so, then this project is not representative of the entire place. If it does not represent the whole of AARland, then it merely becomes a group project among a few people.

Now don’t get me wrong. I imagine that could be entertaining for some. But it is still work for those of us that write for it. And that means time that is taken away from other endeavors, mainly writing an AAR. At this juncture, I find myself more and more inclined to focus my efforts there rather than what seems a stagnate effort here. If what we are doing with this project is only touching a very small subset of the entirety of AARland, then to me it is stagnate. Yes, the works are still up to par and yes, we have seen some newer blood come aboard. But in the end, it remains after a full year, still only for and by a small subset.

I had initially planned to write an AARticle that listed some of the former AARticles and such that stated this goal and called for a more active participation from the larger group. But as I got to thinking about it, I realized that those that did not read them the first time would be no more inclined to read them now. Further, one runs the risk of offending those few people that do take time to comment and participate. There has certainly been a strong following for this project and I cannot thank those people enough for their efforts. Their encouragement after every issue was partly what kept us afloat these many months, and their subsequent efforts elsewhere around the forum are why we did this in the first place.

I like to call it, and have done so many times, a leadership by example principle. My hopes were that the more people read the Gazette, the more they might think about what we had to say. The more we continued to write for the Gazette, the more people would come aboard to be a part of it, or at least discuss what had been written. But if no one is watching, or if the only ones watching do not need to be lead as they already add on their own to the community sense, then what good is trying to lead by example? There is no one following that did not already do so beforehand.

I considered perhaps writing yet another AARticle calling for more participation. But then decided that one more try would not mean anything. Why keep dangling a carrot if no one wants to eat it? Besides, I don’t have any desire to offend or put people off that do happen to read this work. Nor do I wish to run the risk that newer people might get put off by a continuing shout from someone they do not yet know.

No, in the end I had to make a personal decision. And that decision is to retire as Senior editAAR of this Gazette. I no longer feel that I can use this project as a way to assist in forum community because I no longer feel that the project is capable of doing that. We have put up some fine work and brought up some very fine concepts, but I do not see the larger whole taking much of it into their hearts and minds, and using that as a spring-board for lively discussion. For that small group that does, again I thank you. But for the larger group, I simply cannot find the energy anymore to try and develop that which clearly does not exist and I fear may never exist.

I recognize that sounds fatalistic, and in some ways I mean it to. But really I just want to enjoy the work I do around here and running this Gazette of late has ceased being a joy for me. Alexandru has left and Amric has resigned. Director and I have discussed this and we are both in agreement. It is simply too difficult to get people to participate in any meaningful way and rather than be consistently frustrated with that, I choose to step down now while we are still getting full issues rather than waiting for a series of one AARticle issues over a few months.

Now, I will say that if someone else wishes to step up and do the work that it might take to make this effort work, I would be perfectly happy to contribute an AARticle or review from time to time. And perhaps if they do, the fresh blood will be good for the Gazette. Goodness knows I don’t have all the answers or perhaps the patience needed to see change come around. And maybe that new blood will achieve what we have not been able to achieve. If so, then that is fantastic. I have no need for personal kudos or singular credit. All I have ever wanted to see from this project was a better and stronger sense of community.

But right now, I don’t see it. And I don’t think the Gazette, as it stands at the moment, is able to help that along. We have a small but very talented group of columnists who put out great stuff issue after issue and we have a small but very dedicated group of readers who stop by to read and comment issue after issue. As wonderful as that is, it is not the whole community. It does not represent the entire spectrum of inhabitants of AARland. Nor does it assist in moving us in that direction. And I have no idea how it can in the future at this point. One year is quite long enough to try something and find out if it will work. Well, we have tried and in my estimation, it has not worked. Sad, but true.

Thank you for reading over the past year and thank you for allowing us to become a sort of voice for AARland. I hope we have not offended, but I also hope that we have made you think. I apologize if this takes anyone by surprise, but it just seemed the right time. It’s not so much that I am packing up my toys and going home. I just feel like playing a new game for a while, and I am not the only one. Director will be stepping down as well as he has no desire to be the only Senior editAAR and thus the headache that comes with it. After this issue, the AARland Gazette is closed. As I said, if someone else wishes to reopen it under new management, I will certainly not step in the way. Thank you for your time.
 

Director

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I was delighted to be asked to contribute to the Gazette, but I have no desire to head up the project. I too will be stepping down as editor, effective this issue.

I think the individual forums have developed a degree of communal spirit, but that doesn't seem to have extended itself into the larger theme of 'AARland'. And, frankly, writing for the Gazette is fun but there doesn't seem to be much audience. So I'm returning to my on-going AAR and will be developing some other projects.

Thank you all for reading. Especially I thank those of you who took the time to use the 'comment' thread. But my most heartfelt thanks go to the cadre of writers who take the time to read and comment across the dividing lines of games. You are the people who really 'get it', and I appreciate you very much.
 

Estonianzulu

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fAAR away (Estonianzulu)

The Space Under the Sky

A Chinese philosopher once said, “The space under the sky is occupied by all things in their unity.” An interesting observance by a great thinker. What he wrote in the Chou Dynasty in China still holds true today. It seems obvious, what is under the sky is everything. But it is holds deeper meaning, showing the universalism of all things under the sky.

Now, to the forums. I believe that the space on this bandwidth is occupied by all posts in their unity. An odd statement, no doubt. But I believe these AAR forums show this in its greatest detail. The unified forums have brought together the talents, ideas and dreams of hundreds of forum members and made a unified vision for what we are here to experience.

“United We Stand”

Were did this all come from? I remember the arguments, both for and against the unification of the AAR forums. It was a heated debate no doubt. And as I look back on it, I see the unification as a good idea. How so you may ask? I’ll go through by using forum members as examples.

Myself first. I became heavily involved in Victoria AAR’s, and was there when the merger began. I had dabbled in EU, EU2 and HoI, but really read mostly Vicky AAR’s. Then I began to notice other AAR’s. It was quiet a hassle to dig through sub forums to get to interesting looking AAR’s. Most of the time, I abandoned because I didn’t feel like looking. When the forums merged, I need not be depressed by the excessive clicking needed to get to a good read. They were at my doorstep, so to speak. The unity brought me comfort and ease. So, I spread out. I became interested in CK AAR’s, got back into reading EU2, and most of all discovered some of my favorite AAR’s in the Hearts of Iron realm. Using the BAAR’s I was able to follow people’s suggestions to other AAR’s, from other games, where I had once only gone to the Victoria AAR’s.

So, that’s me. What about others?

Some of our best writaars came from one forum, and contributed to the community. Go down the list of Gazette writaars, go ahead and do it now…

Back? Did you recognize some of those names from whatever forum you spend most of your time in? You should. Think, have you ever followed a link from a response, only to be led to an AAR of a different game? How many people have been inspired by other AAR’s, or AAR’s from other games and writaars? I know I have.

The unified forums brought together writaars of different styles, interests and skills. Together they make what I like to think of as a melting pot of creative juices.
”Creative Juices Jumbo”

I’ve had a lot of different food, jumbo included. It’s a collection of food in a sort of stew, and can be very good. It takes food from different backgrounds, different tastes and tempers, varied sweet, sour, spicy and mild. It throws them together into one meal. Individually the food ranges from good, to ok. Together, it is wonderful.

But you may ask, why is the AAR forum a jumbo, instead of say, a loaf, or a bag of trail mix? I’ll tell you.

I hate meatloaf, and I love the forum. So it’s not a meatloaf. Also, when you make a meatloaf you find one ingredient that covers the rest, while in a jumbo it is mixed together, in one meal. Such is the forum. No one idea, or strategy or plan dominates the AAR world. All styles are welcomed, and enjoyed. Just like all types of food are welcomed and eaten in a jumbo.

But you may ask, a trail mix is not dominated by one food, and is a collection of equally enjoyed bits. However, there is nothing unifying in a trail mix, just a bag to hold it together. I can, and often do pick out what I like and throw away the rest. I don’t in the forum. I read all sorts, some are styles I enjoy already, others I am unfamiliar with. But I take the known with the unknown, because they are together. I see one, and get involved and enjoy. I would not have enjoyed it had it been alone, but because it is in the forum, and because I desire to read AAR’s; I become involved and very often find myself liking things I once had no taste for.

That is why the AAR forum is a jumbo of creative juices. Each AAR provides individual tastes. HoI gives details to military and trade unlike any game before. CK gives structure and the feel of a true dynasty. EU is the familiar and the ever changing. Vicky provides the economic depth and industrial capabilities unseen in other worlds. Combined, they give me a taste of what I want, what I enjoy and what I may one day try. Their AAR’s reflect this, and make the forum what it is.

”The reverse side also has a reverse side”

People always wonder what would have happened. That’s why we have AAR’s, alternative history. But what would happen if we tried to change back to the way it was? I don’t know, no one does. But I have a pretty good guess.

Many writaars have ‘grown-up’ in the unified forum. They are used to the accessibility of the forum, the projects and other neat things that have grown up as a result of the unified forum. Things such as this Gazette, the writaar of the week and the SolAARium are as common to many of the writaars as ridicule is to Mac users (hello, my name is Estonianzulu and I am addicted to Mac). Going back to the way things were would cause confusing, disrupt the order of things and lead me back to hiding in one or two forums. I doubt I would be alone.

So, I say we are unified, and it’s a good thing too. We’re here, we’re unified so get used to it. Our jumbo is slowly cooking over the great fire that is the Paradox Interactive forum. Every week new ingredients are thrown in, and it has never tasted better. So, when you look up into the night sky (or into the falling snow if you happen to be where I am) remember that below it all things are unified. And when that annoying “site down for maintenance” screen comes up, remember that we too are unified by our hundreds of members, thousands of ideas, and limitless possibilities.
 

CatKnight

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Letters from the Cat (by CatKnight)

And Then There Was Silence...​


This isn't the article I was planning to write. I planned to talk about passion in your characters, why it may prove useful and how to instill it. Obviously today's decision to end the Gazette has changed all that. I was as surprised as most of you, and AARland's just a little poorer this evening.

Though we'll recover. AARland always has so far, I see no reason for that to change now.

I'll get back to passion in a bit, but since this is basically it I think I'll ramble and rant a bit. Our first topic is 'politics of scarcity.'

Politics of scarcity is the basic underlying principle to pretty much all human conflict. All of Paradox's games ooze the idea - all wargames do. Its basic end effect is that for me to win, someone has to lose. Put another way, it's the belief that there aren't enough resources to go around, so you need to hoard yours and everyone else has to do the best they can.

I could spend hours and pages of text trying to prove to you this is a lie, a byproduct of our animal instincts, but this isn't a philosophy class and I find as the years pass my idealism is starting to fade like a night's dream. Instead I'll point to the destructive effects of this belief. Go up about two or three articles.

Scarcity implies that there are a finite number of readers and writers - a finite amount of resources - and if the Gazette doesn't attract its share then it's failed. It implies that the forum is so limited that if the Gazette doesn't fulfill its mission, then it's a waste. This bothers me, because if you're reading through my scrawlings right now then you know what good the Gazette's managed. It's brought some of us together, people who may not otherwise have met and compared notes. It certainly convinced me to wander out of the EU2 forum a little more and see what's going on. It bothers me because I know our articles have helped writers and readers alike, and the idea that the Gazette failed raises a more horrible question: Would it have been better not to try?

I won't go there for awhile yet. That way lies madness, my friends.

In my personal catty opinion, if the Gazette has failed in its objective, then that's because the objective was unrealistic. It would be like me, with no political experience, becoming president and unifying my country. Anything's possible, and dreams are wonderful things, but facts are facts. AARland is too diverse to unite under one banner. That's not bad, it's not good, it's just the way it is.

Do not take this as a condemnation of what just occured though, it is not ... for if I don't necessarily agree with the sentiment, at least Alexandru, Amric, Director and Coz tried. They saw a problem, and they tried to deal with it in a positive, constructive manner. This may be contrasted with several donkeys who've tried to tear the boards apart for their own gain, hiding behind idealistic crusades of their own. Destructive tactics are the final answer to scarcity theory, and they cannot succeed without pain, fear and hate. That's quite impossible on a forum.

But that does bring us, at long last, to passion. I don't mean sexual interest or lust, I mean having a 'strong emotion or feeling' and acting upon it. Days ago, before our forums went down for maintenance and today's decision, I was going to argue that highly emotional characters, ones that strongly believed in an ideal or a person, were easier to relate to. It's easier for us to care if they do. We can respect a character who's willing to go to the wall, even if we could never condone their activity in real life. I believe people WANT your characters to be just a little larger than life, it makes it that much easier to keep score.

Here's the trick though: The same applies to people.

Look at our heroes and villians throughout history. What do they have in common? They believed in something. We weren't required to like it - that's what makes some of them villians - but no one doubts they were willing to put their honor, fame, wealth, and sometimes lives on the line. We wouldn't fear, dread or hate Hitler if he'd signed the Treaty of Munich and honored it. No, he made the history books because he told the entire planet to get stuffed and nearly got away with it.

You will be remembered for these little stands you make, however. Some will be remembered fondly because they worked for something greater than themselves and left their family, work, friends, etc. etc. a little better for the bargain. Some... will need to work on their reputations.

And that is why I am indeed sad that the Gazette is ending, but I don't condemn it. And my sadness isn't the grief of failure, but a fond farewell to an albeit brief friendship. The writers and editors of the Gazette for the past year made something special for a little while, and people will remember.

So, for my last 'Letters...', at least for a little while, I leave you with a challenge. Today's the day for you to find something to believe in, something to want to nurture and protect and fight for. It doesn't have to shake the world. It can be as small as an AAR, or as powerful as the gentle press of your granddaughter's hand, but for the love of God don't sit there like an AAR's NPC and watch. And if your project can't win, then so what? Get out there anyway and tell the naysayers to get stuffed. We won't remember that you didn't quite make it, but we will remember that you tried. My challenge is to live your life like you mean it, like you're a one province German minor, your ten-country alliance just DOWed THEIR ten country alliance, and Austria-Hungary has 60,000 men on your border. The Gazette may need a nap, but the fight is just beginning.

As for me? Well, I'm not done writing but I know I'd make a botch of the Gazette. Hmm, I wonder if Amric rents rooms in his annex...

It doesn't matter if we ever meet again,
What we have will always remain. - The Jam
 

Amric

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The Art of Writing?​


Let me preface this by saying I’ve read a lot of books. On virtually every subject known to man. I stopped counting after I reached 10,000 books about 20 years ago! I’ve seen many different styles of writing, punctuation, et al. So what is the proper style of writing? Well, depending on which way the wind is blowing on the night of the full moon while swinging a dead cat around your head won’t help you. Sorry. The accepted theory changes. Frequently. What is acceptable today may be wrong next week.

Except for punctuation. I once read a book many years ago, I think it was The Good Earth. I can’t remember. What I DO remember is that it had very little punctuation. No quotation marks were used when people spoke. It made it very difficult to read. Yet because it was required for school, I made my way through it. Can’t remember anything about it other than the severe lack of punctuation. I remember my teacher saying it had been critically acclaimed. That is the moment I decided that all critics were frustrated writers/whatever who didn’t know anything. There was a saying that those who can’t do became critics of those who can. I never have listened to critics since that time. How anyone could acclaim a book with almost no punctuation is beyond me!

Using slang is important if it is a part of the story. Just as a pirate speaking grammatically perfect King’s English would be killed for being a spy for the Royal Navy by his shipmates. So should the other pirates speak as pirates are wont to do. I’m not saying all they say is ‘aargh’ or ‘walk the plank, matey’. Or so forth. But their speech shouldn’t be perfect King’s English, either. Speech should ALWAYS be within quotation marks! No exceptions! Thoughts in italics is just fine, but don’t confuse the readers by changing things up.

Does your writing have to be perfect? Of course not. Robert E. Howard was a tremendous writer. But nobody would say his writing was like Hemingway or Asimov. Howard had a rough style of writing that numerous others, such as L. Sprague De Camp, tried to imitate. Mostly with lesser success. Robert Jordan could do it, sort of, but nobody can write like Howard. His gripping tales are page turners. But let critics at them and they would tear it apart as being nearly illiterate scribbling. Howard had a spare descriptiveness that was and still is, amazing.

What Robert Jordan says in a chapter Howard would do in 2 pages. You’d still get all the information you needed but you wouldn’t get bogged down in wordiness. Now before Jordan fans start emailing me with nasty messages, I love Robert Jordan. I’ve read virtually everything the man has written. But he is wordy compared to Howard. It doesn’t make Jordan wrong. Nor Howard. Just different writing styles. Conversations with Howard characters don’t have lengthy monologues. The only writer that reminds me of Howard is Robert B. Parker who writes mystery novels. Spenser For Hire, the television show, was based on a character in a series of books Parker wrote. Parker has an ability to be descriptive in as almost as spare a style as Howard.

Now when I say this, I don’t mean that description is lacking. I mean these 2 different writers give you all the information you need using words to their utmost. They don’t take forever to describe something, they get to the point. ‘The oak front door was decorated in an ornate antebellum style’. Rather than saying something that takes an entire paragraph or more to say the exact same thing. Am I saying a spare style is best? No. What I am saying is that eloquence is sometimes a good thing, just as sparing unnecessary detail can also be a good thing.

For those who know my own writing, I have been known to be very descriptive when it comes to food. I have seen many responses saying that said person HAD to eat after reading one of my food scenes because I had made them hungry. I always took that as a compliment. I, as a writer, had wanted to evoke a response from my readers. That is what we as writers do. It is our job, as it were. You can all blame my writing about food the way I do on the Archy McNally mystery novels. Another PI, this time from South Florida who is a bon vivant gourmand. Descriptive, isn’t it? Not my words. That is how McNally describes himself. But in those books are the best descriptions of food scenes I’ve ever encountered!

Excess can be good! As can being sparing. I’ve been trying to say that you should writer what is comfortable for you. Punctuation isn’t the biggest thing, other than quotation! It is better to not have massive paragraphs. But if you misspell center/centre nobody here on the forums will castigate you. Of course if you ask for people to point out errors, than so be it. I know Stroph1 has always wanted people to point out errors in his Brunei Tales. So if I see something, I’ll tell him.

One of the most important things is continuity in the story. If your protagonist has red hair early on, he or she shouldn’t have brown hair later. Unless you have given a reason why, of course. I’m not going to go on about he said, he replied, etc. It’s been written and discussed already. What I will say is that if you are enjoying your writing and people enjoy reading than you must be doing something right! The secret ‘art’ to writing is to make the story believable. Or at least plausible enough for readers to suspend their disbelief. If you can make it plausible for gnomes to help the Nazi’s win WWII, then you’ve done your job properly.

If you can make me believe genetically engineered howler monkeys secretly run Tibet, and wouldn’t that be something? You’ve done your job. Research has been discussed, many times. There are those who do a lot, and there are those who do virtually none at all. Depending on what kind of story you’re telling in a way can dictate how much research even the most research oriented do. How can you really say who would be President of the CSA after Jefferson Davis had the south won the Civil War? You COULD speculate on Robert E. Lee. You wouldn’t be the first to think such, but what about after that?

It’s the same with any nation that either never existed or only existed for a short time. You’ve caused them to survive; now you’ll have to decide who runs what. You are the creator, therefore it is up to you to be creative! The best stories on these forums do just that. Whether it is time travel, marauding aliens, or pesky natives, you set the tone. The readers will follow you down the rocky road to redemption or the garden path to the gates of hell if you tell a good story.

Presentation! Whether highly verbose, like this article, or in a spare style, if you spin a grand yarn you will weave a skein that will keep your audience riveted to their monitors, begging for more. Yes, I missed metaphors. Sue me. It looked good, didn’t it? You were reading, weren’t you? I rest my case! Next victim! Er….I seem to have temporarily forgotten what I am doing. Oh, yes…I DO ramble on. I admit it. But I’m entertaining as well. Which means I’ve been doing MY job.

Writing is subjective, just as art is subjective. Some art is obvious, others require interpretation. Perhaps even a translator. Unlike art, which is pretty much a love it or hate it thing, stories can grow on you over time. What at first you weren’t so sure about you come to love. Art isn’t really like that, but the ‘art’ of writing can be, but it is up to you.

You, as the writer, are the Pied Piper. You lead the reader where you want him or her to go, and they are happy while you are doing it! The feeling of power! Knowing you have people hanging upon your every word. It’s an intoxicating feeling! Believe me, I know. After starting my first AAR I remember how much I loved writing. I became known as the Hurricane for a reason. I wrote a LOT. I couldn’t stop myself. I had to keep writing. It became my ‘habit’. It’s not a bad habit. Even when I try to take some time out for real life I find this place tugging upon me like a powerful magnet. I HAVE to write. In a spare few moments at work. While sitting on a toilet. Thoughts pop into my head in the middle of the night and if I don’t write them down, I cannot sleep.

Ask around. See how many other people feel this way. If they are honest they will admit that they feel good when they are writing. We all crave the attention of be a ‘writer’. The feedback and praise. The accolades of your peers. The feeling of knowing that others enjoy what you write. Your readers, or ‘fans’, who read every story you write avidly and love your work. I dare you to say you don’t love the feedback. Go ahead, look into the mirror, straight into your own eyes, and say you don’t love it. Can’t do it, can you? I didn’t think so.

Writing is the ultimate art form. No two authors write exactly alike. Although there are ‘genres’ in writing. How it is written can and does vary from author to author. Impressionist paintings, even by different artists, look pretty much alike to me. But every one of us on the forums has their own ‘style’ of writing. No two are exactly alike, much as no two snowflakes are alike.

Supremely individualistic, yet enjoyed by all of us. There is no better art form than the written word. No other form of entertainment evokes the same response. Few movies, tv shows, or art have been banned. Books such as Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer have been banned because of the language that is contained within its pages. Yet such language was common during the era the story is portraying, but people don’t seem to want to remember that life was different back then and not the pretty idyllic ideal they have burned into their brains.

Tough. The printed word allows people to draw their own inferences. Describe a character in minute detail and a dozen people reading the story will probably have a half a dozen different ideas on what the character truly looks like. It’s human nature, pure and simple. Just as seeing a painting of food or food depicted in movies and tv MIGHT evoke a hunger response, WRITING about food well in a story will almost ALWAYS evoke such a response. If the food sounds good, that is, of course. Spotted dick is a type of sausage. Yet the name evokes disgust in quite a few people. It is supposed to be tasty, but there is no way I could bring myself to try it. Yet it will definitely evoke a response.

That is why writing is the ultimate art form. It allows people to draw their own conclusions. The printed word is extremely powerful. In a time where we are constantly bombarded with visual advertisements we have begun to build up immunity to visual things. Whereas with print we take it so much more seriously that a person is more likely to be influenced by it than the visual. I know when I see commercials that some may amuse me but nothing I see in a visual commercial is going to make me rush out and buy the product. A print ad with a lot of information is more likely to influence me.

The pen is mightier than the sword is a saying that is just as true today as it was when it was first coined. The internet is continuing that tradition. These forums are full of the printed word. We all spend hours devouring the contents of the stories being written by our fellow members. We are contributing to the continuation of the greatest art form ever conceived by humanity. So be proud of that fact. You are all artists developing your own canvas in your own unique ways.

So go out there and keep ‘painting’ that verbal picture that we are all enjoying!
 

Amric

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Foods of the New World: Part II​

The first article was even better received than I had anticipated. Since you’ve stroked my ego by telling me how much you enjoyed it as well as asking for yet more information…You’ve asked and so you shall receive! I hadn’t thought to go much further in depth on this subject, to be honest. I didn’t think anyone would actually care about it that much. I was wrong. I admit it.

So let us start with vanilla. Next to saffron and cardamom, vanilla is the world’s next most expensive spice. Growers are known to “brand” their beans with pin pricks before they can be harvested, to identify the owner and prevent theft. Vanilla is native to Mexico, where it is still grown commercially. Vanilla was used by the Aztecs for flavoring their royal drink xocolatl - a mixture of cocoa beans, vanilla and honey. Cortez brought vanilla back to Europe in the sixteenth century, after having observed Montezuma drinking the cocoa concoction. It has many non-culinary uses, including aromatizing perfumes, cigars and liqueurs.

Europeans prefer to use the bean, while North Americans usually use the extract. Substances called “vanilla flavour” don’t contain vanilla at all, being synthesized from eugenol (clove oil), waste paper pulp, coal tar or ‘coumarin’, found in the tonka bean, whose use is forbidden in several countries. Ice cream producers are unlikely to point out that their most popular flavour derives its name from the Latin word vagina. For ancient Romans, vagina meant sheath or scabbard. The Spanish adopted the word as vaina, which developed a diminutive form, vainilla, meaning “little sheath”. The Spanish made this diminutive the name of the plant because its pods resemble sheaths.

The flavoring comes from the seed pod, or the ‘bean’ of the vanilla plant. The prepared beans are very dark brown, slender, pleated and about 20 cm (8 in) long. The bean is tough and pliable, quality vanilla having a frosting of crystal called givre. The crystals contain the active ingredient ‘vanillin’ that produces the characteristic fragrance and is produced during the process of induced fermentation. These pods are called ‘fine vanilla’. ‘Woody vanilla’ is shorter, lighter colored, uncrystallized, stronger and slightly bitter. All beans contain thousands of tiny black seeds. Vanilla extract is also available and, if of good quality, is identical in flavour to the pods.

Vanilla extract is made by percolating alcohol and water through chopped, cured beans, somewhat like making coffee. Vanilla extract is very powerful, a few drops sufficing for most uses. Vanilla bean is a bit more time consuming to use than the extract, but imparts the strongest vanilla flavour without the alcohol of extract.

To flavour a liquid base for crème sauces, puddings, ice creams, etc., allow one bean per pint to steep in the liquid by boiling and allowing it to cool for an hour before removing the bean. This can be repeated a few times if the bean is washed after use, dried and kept airtight. Ground vanilla can also be used, but use half as much and leave in the liquid. Many recipes call for slitting the bean lengthwise and scraping out the tiny black seeds. Airtight storage is necessary, otherwise the aroma will dissipate. A good way to store whole vanilla is to bury it in sugar. Use a jar with a tight-fitting lid that will hold about a pound of sugar, burying the bean so that no light can reach it. After 2 -3 weeks the sugar tastes of vanilla and can be used in coffee or in other recipes and the bean can be removed for other uses and returned to the sugar after cleaning. Keep topping up the sugar.

From the time of the Aztecs, vanilla was considered an aphrodisiac. This reputation was much enhanced in 1762 when a German study found that a medication based on vanilla extract cured impotence — all 342 smiling subjects claimed they were cured. It was also once believed that vanilla was a febrifuge, used to reduce fevers, though it is rarely used for any medicinal purposes other than as a pharmaceutical flavoring.

There is more about what it looks like, how it is cultivated, and so forth, but I think that might be getting a BIT more informative than we really need for story purposes. Unless you want to go into pollination of them. Which requires Mexican bees unless you do it by hand.

Let’s move on to chocolate. There are few foods that people feel as passionate about -- a passion that goes beyond a love for the "sweetness" of most candies or desserts: after all, few people crave caramel, whipped cream, or bubble gum. Chocolate is, well, different. For the true chocoholic, just thinking about chocolate can evoke a pleasurable response.

The cacao tree (Theobroma cacao) is a native of Central and South America. Today, it is cultivated around the equator, and can be found in the Caribbean, Africa, South-East Asia, and even in the South Pacific Islands of Samoa and New Guinea.

There are three main varieties of cacao trees. The most common is Forastero, which accounts for nearly 90% of the world's production of cacao beans. Rarest and most prized are the beans of the Criollo variety. Their aroma and delicacy make them sought after by the world's best chocolate makers. Finally, there is the Trinitario variety of cacao, which is a cross between Criollo and Forastero.
The spread of the cacao tree started during the age of Colonialism, as did the spread of cacao beans, and of chocolate itself. Christopher Columbus was the first European to come in contact with cacao. On August 15, 1502, on his fourth and last voyage to the Americas, Columbus and his crew encountered a large dugout canoe near an island off the coast of what is now Honduras. The canoe was the largest native vessel the Spaniards had seen. It was "as long as a galley," and was filled with local goods for trade -- including cacao beans. Columbus had his crew seize the vessel and its goods, and retained its skipper as his guide.

Later, Columbus' son Ferdinand wrote about the encounter. He was struck by how much value the Native Americans placed on cacao beans, saying:
"They seemed to hold these almonds [referring to the cacao beans] at a great price; for when they were brought on board ship together with their goods, I observed that when any of these almonds fell, they all stooped to pick it up, as if an eye had fallen."
What Ferdinand and the other members of Columbus' crew didn't know at the time was that cocoa beans were the local currency. In fact, in some parts of Central America, cacao beans were used as currency as recently as the last century.
While it is likely that Columbus brought the cacao beans he seized back to Europe, their potential value was initially overlooked by the Spanish King and his court. Twenty years later, however, Spanish conquistador Hernando Cortez is said to have brought back three chests full of cacao beans. This time the beans were recognized as one treasure among the many stolen from the conquered Aztecs.


By the beginning of the sixteenth century, the Aztecs had an advanced and powerful civilization located in what is now central Mexico. Many people believe that the Aztecs first developed chocolate. However, chocolate goes back much farther. The ancient Maya, who inhabited what is now parts of southern Mexico and Central America, certainly consumed chocolate. In fact, the word "cacao" is Mayan: as early as 500 A.D., the Mayans were writing about cacao on their pottery. Some think chocolate may be even older, dating back to the Olmec civilization that preceded the Maya.


The chocolate of these Mesoamerican civilizations was consumed as a bitter-tasting drink made of ground cacao beans mixed with a variety of local ingredients. An officer serving with Cortez observed Motecuhzoma, the ruler of the Aztecs, drinking fifty flagons of chocolate a day. The frothy beverage, which was sometimes made with water, and sometimes with wine, could be seasoned with vanilla, pimiento, and chili pepper. It was thought to cure diarrhea and dysentery, and was believed to be an aphrodisiac. Cortez is said to have tried the beverage, but found it too bitter. He did, however, write to King Carlos I of Spain, calling "xocoatl" a "drink that builds up resistance and fights fatigue."

For many Europeans, drinking chocolate (especially before it was sweetened) was an acquired taste. Spanish missionary Jose de Acosta, who lived in Peru in the late 1500s, described it this way:

"Loathsome to such as are not acquainted with it, having a scum or froth that is very unpleasant to taste. Yet it is a drink very much esteemed among the Indians, where with they feast noble men who pass through their country. The Spaniards, both men and women, that are accustomed to the country, are very greedy of this Chocolaté. They say they make diverse sorts of it, some hot, some cold, and some temperate, and put therein much of that 'chili'; yea, they make paste thereof, which they say is good for the stomach and against the catarrh."
Soon chocolate would make its way across the Atlantic -- first to Spain, and then to the rest of Europe. The first official shipment was made in 1585 from Veracruz to Seville.

There is some confusion about the derivation of the word "chocolate." The Merriam Webster Dictionary, and many other sources, state that it comes from the Aztec, or more accurately Nahuatl (the language of the Aztecs), word chocolatl. Michael Coe, Professor of Anthropology at Yale, and author of The True History of Chocolate, presents a different view. He argues that the word chocolatl appears in "no truly early source on the Nahuatl language or on Aztec culture." He cites the distinguished Mexican philologist Ignacio Davila Garibi who proposed the idea that the "Spaniards had coined the word by taking the Maya word chocol and then replacing the Maya term for water, haa, with the Aztec one, atl." One other possibility is that chocolate is derived from the Maya verb chokola'j, which means, "to drink chocolate together."

When the Spanish first brought chocolate back to Europe, it was still being served as a beverage, but soon went through an important evolution: the chili pepper was replaced by sugar. The new, sweetened, chocolate beverage was a luxury few could afford, but by the 17th century the drink was common among European nobility. In England, which was somewhat more egalitarian than the rest of Europe, chocolate was more widely available. Those who could afford it could enjoy chocolate drinks in the new coffee and chocolate houses of London.

As other countries challenged Spain's monopoly on cacao, chocolate became more widely available. Soon the French, English, and Dutch were cultivating cacao in their colonies in the Caribbean, and later, elsewhere in the world. With more production came lower prices, and soon the masses in Europe and the Americas were enjoying chocolate. For many people, however, the expanded production of cacao in the New World (along with that of other agricultural products) meant slavery and privation. Cacao production relied heavily on the forced labor of Native Americans and imported African slaves.

As cacao became more commonly available, people began experimenting with new ways of using it. Chocolate began to appear in cakes, pastries, and sorbets. But it wasn't until 1828 that the "modern era" of chocolate making and production began.
In 1828, Dutch chocolate maker Conrad J. van Houten patented an inexpensive method for pressing the fat from roasted cacao beans. The center of the bean, known as the "nib," contains an average of 54 percent cocoa butter, which is a natural fat. Van Houten's machine -- a hydraulic press -- reduced the cocoa butter content by nearly half. This created a "cake" that could be pulverized into a fine powder known as "cocoa." Van Houten treated the powder with alkaline salts (potassium or sodium carbonates) so that the powder would mix more easily with water. Today, this process is known as "Dutching." The final product, Dutch chocolate, has a dark color and a mild taste.
The introduction of cocoa powder not only made creating chocolate drinks much easier, but also made it possible to combine chocolate with sugar and then remix it with cocoa butter to create a solid. Others began to build on Van Houten's success, experimenting to make new chocolate products. In 1849, English chocolate maker Joseph Storrs Fry produced what was arguably the world's first eating chocolate.
Today, the Swiss are famous for their chocolate, and rightly so. In the late 19th century, they developed a number of processes that contributed greatly to creating the solid chocolate candy that we all enjoy today. Two major developments occurred in 1879. First, Daniel Peter, a Swiss chocolate manufacturer, had the idea of using powdered milk (invented by Swiss Chemist Henri Nestle in 1867) to make a new kind of chocolate, milk chocolate. Second, Rudolphe Lindt invented a process called "conching," which greatly improved the quality of chocolate candy by making it more blendable.
There is a bit more, but I don’t think we need to go even further into the nitty gritty details. This ought to whet your appetites though. If not, then you are really really into chocolate. Go eat some and you’ll feel better. Honest.
The production of sugar, first from cane and later from beets, is one of the oldest and best studied technological processes. As early as 327 B.C. Alexander the Great reported cultivation of sugar cane in India. At that time, sugar was extracted from the cane by chewing and sucking. Later, syrup was extracted by means of pressing and boiling the cane. This process which was first practiced in India in about 300 A.D. became the basis for producing sugar in solid form.
From Persia and Egypt, sugar cane was introduced to Sicily and Spain. In 1492, Columbus carried sugar cane from the Canary Islands to Santo Domingo. As the cane became more dispersed geographically, cost of production dropped, causing sugar to lose status as a luxury item while increasing its importance as a basic nutrient. In 1747, Robert Marggraf, a chemist in Berlin, discovered the presence of sugar in the juice of beets. Marggraf, however, believed the amount of sugar in beets was inadequate to provide an incentive for further development of the techniques needed to extract sugar.
Fifty years later, Mr. Achard, a former student of Marggraf, revived the experiments. His intensive efforts proved successful, leading to his founding of the first beet sugar factory, completed in 1802 in Kunern, Germany.
As a consequence of the continental blockade imposed against Napoleon by England in 1806, the beet sugar industry flourished, especially in France and Germany. During the middle of the nineteenth century, manufacturing techniques improved and more productive species of beets were developed.
It is thought that cane sugar was first used by man in Polynesia from where it spread to India. In 510 BC the Emperor Darius of what was then Persia invaded India where he found "the reed which gives honey without bees". The secret of cane sugar, as with many other of man's discoveries, was kept a closely guarded secret whilst the finished product was exported for a rich profit.
It was the major expansion of the Arab peoples in the seventh century AD that led to a breaking of the secret. When they invaded Persia in 642 AD they found sugar cane being grown and learnt how sugar was made. As their expansion continued they established sugar production in other lands that they conquered including North Africa and Spain.
Sugar was only discovered by western Europeans as a result of the Crusades in the 11th Century AD. Crusaders returning home talked of this "new spice" and how pleasant it was. The first sugar was recorded in England in 1099. The subsequent centuries saw a major expansion of western European trade with the East, including the importation of sugar. It is recorded, for instance, that sugar was available in London at "two shillings a pound" in 1319 AD. This equates to about US$100 per kilo at today's prices so it was very much a luxury.
In the 15th century AD, European sugar was refined in Venice, confirmation that even then when quantities were small, it was difficult to transport sugar as a food grade product. In the same century, Columbus sailed to the Americas, the "New World". It is recorded that in 1493 he took sugar cane plants to grow in the Caribbean. The climate there was so advantageous for the growth of the cane that an industry was quickly established.
By 1750 there were 120 sugar refineries operating in Britain. Their combined output was only 30,000 tons per annum. At this stage sugar was still a luxury and vast profits were made to the extent that sugar was called "white gold". Governments recognised the vast profits to be made from sugar and taxed it highly. In Britain for instance, sugar tax in 1781 totalled £326,000, a figure that had grown by 1815 to £3,000,000. This situation was to stay until 1874 when the British government, under Prime Minister Gladstone, abolished the tax and brought sugar prices within the means of the ordinary citizen.
Sugar beet was first identified as a source of sugar in 1747. No doubt the vested interests in the cane sugar plantations made sure that it stayed as no more than a curiosity, a situation that prevailed until the Napoleonic wars at the start of the 19th century when Britain blockaded sugar imports to continental Europe. By 1880 sugar beet had replaced sugar cane as the main source of sugar on continental Europe. Those same vested interests probably delayed the introduction of beet sugar to England until the First World War when Britain's sugar imports were threatened.
TYPES OF SUGAR
Almost all of commercially manufactured sugar is white granulated sugar, which may have been refined in factories. These sugars are then classified as either extra coarse, coarse, standard, fine, or extra fine granulated.
Other types of sugar, such as brown sugar, are produced with a slight variance from that of white sugar. Brown sugar is made by retaining much of the molasses during processing.
Candy sugar, used mainly by the brewing industry, consists of very large white crystals of sugar. Liquid sugar is made chiefly from cane sugar, while cubed sugar is processed by molding granular sugar with a sugary liquid to help cement the crystals together.
Now since I was also specifically asked about Rum…..
The name is doubtless American. A manuscript description of Barbadoes, written twenty-five years after the English settlement of the island in 1651, is thus quoted in The Academy: "The chief fudling they make in the island is Rumbullion, alias Kill-Divil, and this is made of sugar canes distilled, a hot, hellish, and terrible liquor." This is the earliest-known allusion to the liquor rum; the word is held by some antiquaries in what seems rather a strained explanation to be the gypsy rum, meaning potent, or mighty. The word rum was at a very early date adopted and used as English university slang. The oldest American reference to the word rum (meaning the liquor) which I have found is in the act of the General Court of Massachusetts in May, 1657, prohibiting the sale of strong liquors "whether knowne by the name of rumme, strong water, wine, brandy, etc., etc." The traveler Josselyn wrote of it, terming it that "cursed liquor rhum, rumbullion or kill-devil." English sailors still call their grog rumbowling. But the word rum in this word and in rumbooze and in rumfustian did not mean rum; it meant the gypsy adjective powerful. Rumbooze or rambooze, distinctly a gypsy word, and an English university drink also, is made of eggs, ale, wine, and sugar. Rumfustian was made of a quart of strong beer, a bottle of white wine or sherry, half a pint of gin, the yolks of twelve eggs, orange peel, nutmeg, spices, and sugar. Rum-barge is another mixed drink of gypsy name. It will be noted that none of these contains any rum.
In some localities in America rum was called in early days Barbadoes-liquor, a very natural name, occasionally also Barbadoes-brandy. The Indians called it ocuby, or as it was spelled in the Norridgewock, tongue, ah-coobee. Many of the early white settlers called it by the same name. Kill-devil was its most universal name, not only a slang name, but a trading-term used in bills of sale. A description of Surinam written in 1651 says: "Rhum made from sugar-canes is called kill-devil in New England." At thus early a date had the manufacture of rum become associated with New England.
The Dutch in New York called the liquor brandy-wine, and soon in that colony wherever strong waters were named in taverns lists, the liquor was neither aqua vitae nor gin nor brandy, but New England rum.
It soon was cheap enough. Rev. Increase Mather, the Puritan parson, wrote, in 1686: "It is an unhappy thing that in later years a Kind of Drink called Rum has been common among us. They that are poor and wicked, too, can for a penny make themselves drunk." From old account-books, bills of lading, grocers' bills, family expenses, etc., we have the price of rum at various dates, and find that his assertion was true.
In 1673 Barbadoes rum was worth 6s. a gallon. In 1687 its price had vastly fallen, and New England rum sold for 1s. 6d. a gallon. In 1692 2s. a gallon was the regular price. In 1711 the price was 3s. 3d. In 1757, as currency grew valueless, it was 21s. a gallon. In 1783 only a little over a shilling; then it was but 8d. a quart. During this time the average cost of molasses in the West Indies was 12d. a gallon; so, though the distillery plant for its production was costly, it can be seen that the profits were great.
Burke said about 1750: "The quantity of spirits which they distill in Boston from the molasses which they import is as surprising as the cheapness at which they sell it, which is under two shillings a gallon; but they are more famous for the quantity and cheapness than for the excellency of their rum." An English traveler named Bennet wrote as the same date of Boston society: "Madeira wine and rum punch are the liquors they drink in common." Baron Riedesel, who commanded the foreign troops in America during the Revolution, wrote of the New England inhabitants: "Most of the males have a strong passion for strong drink, especially rum." While President John Adams said caustically: "If the ancients drank wine as our people drink rum and cider, it is no wonder we hear of so many possessed with devils;" yet he himself, to the end of his life, always began the day with a tankard of hard cider before breakfast.
The Dutch were too constant beer drinkers to become with speed great rum consumers, and they were too great lovers of gin and schnapps. But they deprecated the sharp and intolerant prohibition of the sale of rum to the Indians, saying: "To prohibit all strong liquor to them seems very hard and very Turkish. Rum doth as little hurt as the Frenchman's Brandie, and in the whole is much more wholesome." The English were fiercely abhorrent of intemperance among the Indians, and court records abound in laws restraining the sale of rum to the "bloudy salvages," of prosecutions and fines of white traders who violated these laws, and of constant and fierce punishment of the thirsty red men, who simply tried to gratify an appetite instilled in them by the English.
William Penn wrote to the Earl of Sutherland in 1683: "Ye Dutch, Sweed, and English have by Brandy and Specially Rum, almost Debaucht ye Indians all. When Drunk ye most Wretched of Spectacles. They had been very Tractable but Rum is so dear to them."
Rum formed the strong intoxicant of all popular tavern drinks; many are still mixed to-day. Toddy, sling, grog, are old-time concoctions.
A writer for the first Galaxy thus parodied the poem, I knew by the smoke that so gracefully curled:---
"I knew by the pole that's so gracefully crown'd
Beyond the old church, that a tavern was near,
And I said if there's black-strap on earth to be found,
A man who had credit night hope for it here."
Josiah Quincy said that black-strap was a composition of which the secret, he fervently hoped, reposed with the lost arts. Its principal ingredients were rum and molasses, though there were other simples combined with it. He adds, "Of all the detestable American drinks on which our inventive genius has exercised itself, this black-strap was truly the most outrageous."
Casks of it stood in every country store and tavern, a salted cod-fish hung alongside, slyly to tempt by thirst additional purchasers of black-strap. "Calibogus," or "bogus," was unsweetened rum and beer.
Mimbo, sometimes abbreviated to mim, was a drink made of rum and loaf-sugar--and possibly water.

Rum is distilled from fermented molasses, sugar cane, or cane syrup. Sugar cane is not native to the Caribbean, where most of it is now produced. Spanish explorers brought it with them on their journeys. Columbus is even said to have planted it on his second voyage to Hispaniola and Cuba.
Triangular Trade began taking place between Europeans, Africans, and the Colonies in the 1500's. Europeans traded goods to Africans for slaves, and the slaves to the sugar plantations in Brazil and the West Indies in exchange for tobacco, coffee, sugar, and molasses. By the 1700's France and Britain had established a major influence in the West Indies. Molasses and rum were important imports to North America and Europe. British Admiral, Edward Vernon, nicknamed "Old Grog", ordered rations of rum diluted with water for his crew. Lime was added to prevent scurvy and the daily ration of grog became a British Naval tradition until 1970. This is where the term "Limey" came into being.
It wasn't long before the early New England colonies started their own Triangular Trade. Colonial rum was inexpensive and was traded in Africa for slaves. The slaves were then sold to the sugar plantations in exchange for money and more molasses, which was then sold back to the distilleries.
American history doesn't stop with rum distillation. George Washington campaigned with seventy-five gallons of free rum. This was distributed to the voters of Virginia, who in 1758, elected him to the House of Burgess. The Boston Tea Party was not just about tea. In 1733 and 1765, the British imposed a tax upon molasses that was not of British import, resulting in a new spirit. Rye was easily made from local rye grain. Medford was the common name for rum by New Englanders at that time. Paul Revere was said to have had two glasses of Medford before his famous ride in order to shout, "the English are coming!"
For well over 300 years, Great Britain's Royal Navy issued a daily "tot" of Pusser's Rum to the crews of their ships - and always a double issue before battle and after victory! First introduced into the Navy in 1655 as a substitute for beer, by 1731, it was in general use.
And the name Pusser's? Nothing more than a corruption of the word "purser". On board ship, the purser was responsible for ship's stores - including the rum. Everything that came from the purser was called "Pusser's" -- and still is today. Hence the name Pusser's Rum!
The history of rum in Great Britain's Royal Navy was largely that of social change, both in England and the Royal Navy. From 1650 throughout the 18th century, shipboard life was incredibly difficult. The daily issue of Pusser's Rum was the highlight of the day. Then, too in those days, battles were fought "eyeball-to-eyeball". The mental alertness and courage required to pack a cannonball into a muzzle loader were far different from that required to operate the modern weapon systems of today. Thus in 1970, the Admiralty Board decreed that there was no place for the daily issue of rum in a modern navy, and so ended the daily issue of Pusser's Rum in the Royal Navy on July31st,1970. This date since then, is referred to "Black Tot Day". The rum issue, one of the longest and unbroken traditions in seafaring history, ended as the last tot of Pusser's was drunk on board Their Majesties Ships. "Round the world" in every ship of the Navy, glasses were raised in their final salute. 'The Queen'!", they said, and it's no exaggeration to say that at that moment many a strong man shed a tear at the passing of a tradition so old and fine, that was to be no more.
On the Origin of "Grog" and Vernon's Orders
Over the centuries, the amount of rum changed from time to time. Prior to 1740, Pusser's Rum was issued to the men neat. That is without water. They received 1/2-pint twice daily! Admiral Vernon, the hero of Portobello and the Commander-in-Chief, West Indies Station was very much concerned with what he called the swinish vice of drunkenness which he believed was caused by the men drinking their daily allowance of rum neat, that is without water. He believed that if the same amount of rum was mixed with water, and then consumed that it would reduce drunkenness and discipline problems for which the punishment could be brutal. Thus he issued his infamous Order to Captains No. 349 on August 21, 1740. His order stated that the daily allowance of rum "be every day mixed with the proportion of a quart of water to a half pint of rum, to be mixed in a scuttled butt kept for that purpose, and to be done upon the deck, and in the presence of the Lieutenant of the Watch who is to take particular care to see that the men are not defrauded in having their full allowance of rum... and let those that are good husband men receive extra lime juice and sugar that it be made more palatable to them."
The sailors or "Jack Tars" had affectionately nicknamed Admiral Vernon "Old Grog" from the "grogram" cloak he often wore on the quarter deck. The watered rum gave great offence to the men, and soon they began referring to it contemptuously as "Grog" from the name they'd already provided Admiral Vernon. Thus, true Grog is Pusser's Rum and water with lime juice and sugar!
The "scuttled butt" in Vernon's Order eventually became the "Grog Tub" from which the daily Grog was issued. Petty Officers received their Pusser's Rum 'neat' directly from the Spirit Room at 1100 hours daily when the bos'n piped "Up Spirits!" to herald the event. The issue of Grog to the rest of the sailors followed one hour later.
Changes in the Issue
The ration - or tot - was later increased to two parts water and one part rum, and in 1756, the daily ration of Pusser's Rum was increased to one pint per day, per man. Finally, just before the tot ritual ended in 1970, it was reduced to one-eighth pint.
Over the more than 300 years that Pusser's Rum was issued on board ships of the Royal Navy, a whole litany of special terminology grew up around it. Pusser's Rum became a form of currency, a way to pay off old debts or to reward a shipmate for a favor. Even card games were played for rum. Pusser's Rum had a value that was defined by such terms as "a wet", "sipper", "gulper" and "sandy bottoms", all used to define the amount.
Stalwart men, like Chief Petty Officer Frank Reynolds kept the vital sea lanes open during the during the Battle of the Atlantic of World War II. The highlight of each man's day was the issue of their daily tot of Pusser's Rum. When the Royal Navy finally abolished the rum issue, many of the old salts took early retirement and never returned.
The Pusser's Rum tradition is still alive. In 1979, Charles Tobias, an entrepreneur, global sailor, raconteur–sought to resurrect the Pusser's Rum tradition. He obtained the rights and all the blending information from the Admiralty, and formed Pusser's Ltd. on Tortola in the British Virgin Islands and began bottling and selling this storied spirit in 1980 to the public for the first time. (Prior to then, it was restricted to the Royal Navy). British Navy Pusser's Rum is the same Admiralty blend of five West Indian rums as issued on board British warships, and it is with the Admiralty's blessing and approval that Pusser's is now available to the consumer.
The Royal Navy Sailor's Fund, a naval charity more commonly called the "Tot Fund" receives a substantial donation from the sale of each bottle of British Navy Pusser's Rum. Aside from the fund's original bequest, the Pusser's contribution has become the fund's largest source of income.
Let’s move on, shall we? The history of the potato has its roots in the windswept Andes Mountains of South America. There are more than 160 wild potato species, and most of them contain high levels of alkaloids. It is an austere region plagued by fluctuating temperatures and poor soil conditions. Yet the tough and durable potato evolved in its thin air (elevations up to 15,000 feet), climbing ever higher like the people who first settled the region.
The tough pre-Columbian farmers first discovered and cultivated the potato some 7,000 years ago. They were impressed by its ruggedness, storage quality and its nutritional value. Western man did not come in contact with the potato until as late as 1537 when the Conquistadors tramped through Peru. And it was even later, about 1570, that the first potato made its way across the Atlantic to make a start on the continent of Europe.
Though the tuber was productive and hardy, the Spanish put it to very limited use. In the Spanish Colonies potatoes were considered food for the under classes; when brought to the Old World they would be used primarily to feed hospital inmates.
It would take three decades for the potato to spread to the rest of Europe. Even so the potato was cultivated primarily as a curiosity by amateur botanists. Resistance was due to ingrained eating habits, the tuber's reputation as a food for the underprivileged and perhaps most importantly its relationship to poisonous plants.
The potato is a member of the nightshade family and its leaves are, indeed, poisonous. A potato left too long in the light will begin to turn green. The green skin contains a substance called solanine which can cause the potato to taste bitter and even cause illness in humans. Such drawbacks were understood in Europe, but the advantages, generally, were not.
Europe would wait until the 1780's before the potato gained prominence anywhere. About 1780 the people of Ireland adopted the rugged food crop. The primary reason for its acceptance in Ireland was its ability to produce abundant, nutritious food. Unlike any other major crop, potatoes contain most of the vitamins needed for sustenance. Perhaps more importantly, potatoes can provide this sustenance to nearly 10 people on an acre of land. This would be one of the prime factors causing a population explosion in the early 1800s. Of course, by the mid-1800's the Irish would become so dependent upon this crop that its failure would provoke a famine.
While in Ireland the potato gained acceptance from the bottom up, in France the potato was imposed upon society by an intellectual. Antoine Augustine Parmentier saw that the nutritional benefits of the crop combined with its productive capacity could be a boon to the French farmer. He was a pharmacist, chemist and employee of Louis XV. Parmentier discovered the benefits of the potato while held prisoner by the Prussians during the Seven Years War. He was so enamored by the potato that he determined that it should become a staple of the French diet. After failing by conventional means to convince Frenchmen of its advantages, he determined upon a surreptitious means of making his point.
Parmentier acquired a miserable and unproductive spot of ground on the outskirts of Paris. There, he planted 50 acres of potatoes. During the day, he set a guard over it. This drew considerable attention in the neighborhood. In the evening the guard was relaxed and the locals came to see what all the fuss was about. Believing this plant must be valuable; many peasants "acquired" some of the potatoes from the plot, and soon were growing the root in their own garden plots. Their resistance was overcome by their curiosity and desire to better their lot with the obviously valuable new produce.
Soon the potato would gain wide acceptance across Europe and eventually make its way back over the Atlantic to North America. As time passed, the potato would become one of the major food stuffs of the world. But not without a few bumps in the road. The 1840's saw disastrous potato blight. This terrible disease was caused by a fungus known as Phytophthora infestans. With the devastation of potato crops throughout Europe came the destruction and dislocation of many of the populations that had become dependent upon it. The Potato Famine in Ireland would cut the population by half (through both starvation and emigration). An effective fungicide was not found until 1883 by the French botanist, Alexandre Millardet.
I think that ought to do it, to an extent. I’ve gone on for fourteen pages. So hopefully this has been an enlightening article and you’ve learned something that will help you in your stories.
 

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The Traditions of Easter​
As with almost all "Christian" holidays, Easter has been secularized and commercialized. The dichotomous nature of Easter and its symbols, however, is not necessarily a modern fabrication.
Modern-day Easter is derived from two ancient traditions: one Judeo-Christian and the other Pagan. Both Christians and Pagans have celebrated death and resurrection themes following the Spring Equinox for millennia. Most religious historians believe that many elements of the Christian observance of Easter were derived from earlier Pagan celebrations.
Since its conception as a holy celebration in the second century, Easter has had its non-religious side. In fact, Easter was originally a pagan festival.
The ancient Saxons celebrated the return of spring with an uproarious festival commemorating their goddess of offspring and of springtime, Eastre. When the second-century Christian missionaries encountered the tribes of the north with their pagan celebrations, they attempted to convert them to Christianity. They did so, however, in a clandestine manner.
It would have been suicide for the very early Christian converts to celebrate their holy days with observances that did not coincide with celebrations that already existed. To save lives, the missionaries cleverly decided to spread their religious message slowly throughout the populations by allowing them to continue to celebrate pagan feasts, but to do so in a Christian manner.
As it happened, the pagan festival of Eastre occurred at the same time of year as the Christian observance of the Resurrection of Christ. It made sense, therefore, to alter the festival itself, to make it a Christian celebration as converts were slowly won over. The early name, Eastre, was eventually changed to its modern spelling, Easter.
Pagan origins of Easter:
Many, perhaps most, Pagan religions in the Mediterranean area had a major seasonal day of religious celebration at or following the Spring Equinox. Cybele, the Phrygian fertility goddess, had a fictional consort who was believed to have been born via a virgin birth. He was Attis, who was believed to have died and been resurrected each year during the period MAR-22 to MAR-25. "About 200 B.C. mystery cults began to appear in Rome just as they had earlier in Greece. Most notable was the Cybele cult centered on Vatican hill ...Associated with the Cybele cult was that of her lover, Attis ([the older Tammuz, Osiris, Dionysus, or Orpheus under a new name). He was a god of ever-reviving vegetation. Born of a virgin, he died and was reborn annually. The festival began as a day of blood on Black Friday and culminated after three days in a day of rejoicing over the resurrection." 3
Wherever Christian worship of Jesus and Pagan worship of Attis were active in the same geographical area in ancient times, Christians "used to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus on the same date; and pagans and Christians used to quarrel bitterly about which of their gods was the true prototype and which the imitation."
Many religious historians believe that the death and resurrection legends were first associated with Attis, many centuries before the birth of Jesus. They were simply grafted onto stories about Jesus’ life in order to make Christian theology more acceptable to Pagans. Others suggest that many of the events in Jesus' life that were recorded in the gospels were lifted from the life of Krishna, the second person of the Hindu Trinity. Ancient Christians had an alternate explanation; they claimed that Satan had created counterfeit deities in advance of the coming of Christ in order to confuse humanity. 4 Modern-day Christians generally regard the Attis legend as being a Pagan myth of little value. They regard Jesus' death and resurrection account as being true, and unrelated to the earlier tradition.
Wiccans and other modern-day Neopagans continue to celebrate the Spring Equinox as one of their 8 yearly Sabbats (holy days of celebration). Near the Mediterranean, this is a time of sprouting of the summer's crop; farther north, it is the time for seeding. Their rituals at the Spring Equinox are related primarily to the fertility of the crops and to the balance of the day and night times. Where Wiccans can safely celebrate the Sabbat out of doors without threat of religious persecution, they often incorporate a bonfire into their rituals, jumping over the dying embers is believed to assure fertility of people and crops.
When have Christians celebrated Easter?
The Encyclopedia Britannica states: "There is no indication of the observance of the Easter festival in the New Testament or in the writings of the apostolic Fathers. The sanctity of special times was an idea absent from the minds of the first Christians."
According to BibleWorld.com, "Some church historians assert that Easter observance began in the first century (CE), but they must admit that their first evidence for the observance comes from the second century."
There was no consensus within the second century church about when to celebrate Easter. "...the early Christians had followed the Jewish calendar and celebrated the resurrection on the Passover which was the fourteenth of Nisan, the first month of the Jewish year...." "By the end of the 2nd century some churches celebrated Easter/Pascha on the day of the Jewish Passover, regardless of the day of the week, while others celebrated it on the following Sunday." The Council of Nicaea in 325 CE later set the date as the first Sunday after Passover. That is, if Passover was on a Sunday, then Easter was delayed by seven days. Thus, it was observed on a date between the fifteenth and twenty-first day of the Jewish month of Nisan. Eventually, the date of Easter was set as the first Sunday after the first full moon (the Paschal Moon) on or after the nominal date of the vernal (spring) equinox: MAR-21. The church celebrated Easter between the 15th and 21st day of Nisan. However, this did not achieve harmony within Christianity:
Local differences "differences in the mechanics of determining the date of Easter/Pascha remained even after Nicaea" "...by the 6th century the mode of calculation based on the studies of Alexandrian astronomers and scholars had gained universal acceptance."
The Celtic Church did not delay Easter in the event that Passover occurred on a Sunday. Thus, they celebrated Easter on a date between the 14th and 21st day of Nisan. In about one year in seven, their observance would be one week before the Roman church. This practice continued for the remnants of the Celtic Church at Iona in what present-day Scotland until 716 CE. The Welsh church did not adopt the Roman dating until 768 CE.
The Julian calendar, which was used by the entire Christian Church until the mid 16th century was in error about 11 minutes and 14 seconds each year. This accumulated to form a full day error every 128 years. By the late 16th century, this error had accumulated to an intolerable 10 days. Pope Gregory XIII commissioned a study to decide how to correct it and how to prevent it from drifting in the future. The solution was to make most of the century years into non-leap years; only those which were evenly divisible by 400 (e.g. 1600, 2000, 2400 etc.) were to be leap years.
Roman Catholic countries corrected the calendar by making 1582-OCT-15 CE follow 1582-OCT-4. England delayed the adoption of the Gregorian calendar until the mid 18th century. They made an 11 day correction; the day following 1752-SEP-2 was SEP-14. Eastern Orthodox Churches continue to use the Julian calendar. It is currently 13 days later than the Gregorian calendar. Since 1923, the Romanian Orthodox and Greek Orthodox churches have adopted the Gregorian calendar. However, they continue to use the Julian calendar for Easter calculations.

The gap between the two calendars continues to grow. Most Greek Orthodox churches currently celebrate Christmas on JAN-7 and New Year's Day on January 14 (according to the Gregorian calendar). This gap generally causes Easter to be celebrated on the same Sunday in the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches only about once every three or four years. In other years, the Orthodox Easter -- called Pascha -- is delayed by one, four, or five weeks!
The Date of Easter
Prior to A.D. 325, Easter was variously celebrated on different days of the week, including Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. In that year, the Council of Nicaea was convened by emperor Constantine. It issued the Easter Rule which states that Easter shall be celebrated on the first Sunday that occurs after the first full moon on or after the vernal equinox. However, a caveat must be introduced here. The "full moon" in the rule is the ecclesiastical full moon, which is defined as the fourteenth day of a tabular lunation, where day 1 corresponds to the ecclesiastical New Moon. It does not always occur on the same date as the astronomical full moon. The ecclesiastical "vernal equinox" is always on March 21. Therefore, Easter must be celebrated on a Sunday between the dates of March 22 and April 25.
The Cross
The Cross is the symbol of the Crucifixion, as opposed to the Resurrection. However, at the Council of Nicaea, in A.D. 325, Constantine decreed that the Cross was the official symbol of Christianity. The Cross is not only a symbol of Easter, but it is more widely used, especially by the Catholic Church, as a year-round symbol of their faith.
The Easter Bunny
The Easter Bunny is a cute little rabbit that hides eggs for us to find on Easter. But where did he come from? Well, the origin is not certain. In the rites of spring the rabbit symbolized fertility. In a German book published in 1682, a tale is told of a bunny laying eggs and hiding them in the garden.
The Easter Bunny is not a modern invention. The symbol originated with the pagan festival of Eastre. The goddess, Eastre, was worshipped by the Anglo-Saxons through her earthly symbol, the rabbit.
The Germans brought the symbol of the Easter rabbit to America. It was widely ignored by other Christians until shortly after the Civil War. In fact, Easter itself was not widely celebrated in America until after that time.
The Easter Egg
As with the Easter Bunny and the holiday itself, the Easter Egg predates the Christian holiday of Easter. The exchange of eggs in the springtime is a custom that was centuries old when Easter was first celebrated by Christians.
From the earliest times, the egg was a symbol of rebirth in most cultures. Eggs were often wrapped in gold leaf or, if you were a peasant, colored brightly by boiling them with the leaves or petals of certain flowers.
Lambs, chicks and baby creatures of all kinds are all associated with spring, symbolizing the birth of new life.

Since ancient times many cultures have associated eggs with the universe. They've been dyed, decorated and painted by the Romans, Gaul's, Persians and the Chinese. They were used in ancient spring festivals to represent the rebirth of life. As Christianity took hold the egg began to symbolize the rebirth of man rather than nature.

During the 4th century consuming eggs during Lent became taboo. However, spring is the peak egg-laying time for hens, so people began to cook eggs in their shells to preserve them. Eventually people began decorating and hiding them for children to find during Easter, which gave birth to the Easter Egg Hunt. Other egg-related games also evolved like egg tossing and egg rolling.

A Polish folktale tells of the Virgin Mary giving eggs to soldiers at the cross while she pleaded with them to be merciful. As her tears dropped they spattered droplets on the eggs mottling them with a myriad of colors.

The Faberge egg is the best known of all the decorated eggs. Peter Faberge made intricate, delicately decorated eggs. In 1883, the Russian Czar commissioned Faberge to make a special egg for his wife.
Today, children hunt colored eggs and place them in Easter baskets along with the modern version of real Easter eggs -- those made of plastic or chocolate candy.
The Easter Basket and New Clothes for Easter
The Easter bonnet and new clothes on Easter symbolizes the end of the dreary winter and the beginning of the fresh, new spring. At the turn of the century it was popular for families to stroll to church and home again to show off their "Sunday best".

The Easter Basket shows roots in a Catholic custom. Baskets filled with breads, cheeses, hams and other foods for Easter dinner were taken to mass Easter morning to be blessed. This evolved in time to baskets filled with chocolate eggs, jellybeans, toys and stuffed bunnies for children left behind by the Easter Bunny.

What is CE or BCE?
CE stands for "Common Era." It is a relatively new term that is experiencing increased usage and is eventually expected to replace AD. The latter is an abbreviation for "Anno Domini" in Latin or "the year of the Lord" in English. The latter refers to the approximate birth year of Yeshua ben Nazareth (a.k.a. Jesus Christ). CE and AD have the same and value. 2004 CE = 2004 AD.
BCE stands for "Before the common era." It is eventually expected to replace BC, which means "Before Christ." BC and BCE are also identical in value. Most theologians and religious historians believe that the approximate birth date of Yeshua of Nazareth (Jesus) was in the fall, sometime between 7 and 4 BCE, although we have seen estimates as late as 4 CE and as early as the second century BCE.
Of course, one can always interpret the letter "C" in CE and BCE as referring to "Christian" or "Christ's." The Abbreviations Dictionary does exactly this.
"Wikipedia: the free encyclopedia" states that the new notation is used by "Many non-Christians or secular persons." However, we suspect that the majority of users are actually Christians who want a notation that does not offend or distress persons of other religions.
The word "common" simply means that this is the most frequently used calendar system: the Gregorian Calendar. There are many religious calendars in existence, but each of these are normally in use in only a small geographic area of the world -- typically by followers of a single religion.
Groups in favor of CE/BCE:
The Ethic of Reciprocity (the Golden Rule) suggests that one should not intentionally cause pain to other humans. We should treat others as we would wish to be treated. Since only one out of every three humans on earth is a Christian, some theologians and other authors felt that non-religious, neutral terms like CE and BCE would be less offensive to the non-Christian majority. Forcing a Hindu, for example, to use AD and BC might be seen by some as coercing them to acknowledge the supremacy of the Christian God and of Jesus Christ.
Consider an analogous situation: the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance. The most recent version of this pledge includes the phrase: "Under God." Imagine what a Wiccan (who believes in a God and a Goddess), or many Buddhists and strong Atheists ( who do not believe in the existence of God) feel when having to recite those words. Consider how a Christian would feel if the pledge read "Under Buddha" or "Under Allah."
Although CE and BCE were originally used mainly within theological writings, the terms are gradually receiving greater usage in secular writing, the media, and in the culture generally.


A group and individual opposed to CE/BCE:
Many Christians, particularly from the conservative Protestant wing of that religion, are distressed at the new terms. Some feel that AD and BC have been in use for centuries and that this tradition should be respected. Others see the switch to CE and BCE as just one more example of non-Christian religions being given precedence over Christianity.
At its year 2000 convention at Orlando FL, the Southern Baptist Convention approved their Resolution 9: "On retaining the traditional method of calendar dating (B.C./A.D.)." With reference to the popularity of the CE/BCE nomenclature, it stated, in part:

"...This practice is the result of the secularization, anti-supernaturalism, religious pluralism, and political correctness pervasive in our society."

"The traditional method of dating is a reminder of the preeminence of Christ and His gospel in world history."
The resolution recommended that Southern Baptist "individuals, churches, entities, and institutions....retain the traditional method of dating and avoid this revisionism.
Ben Johnson of Hampden Academy in Maine suggests a number of reasons why he prefers AD and BC. Some are:
The term "common era" does not appear in Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary.
Better events to choose to represent a major change in human history would be:

The invention of agriculture, circa 10000 BCE

The invasion of Europe by Persia in 491 BCE

The birth date of Alexander the Great who conquered most of the known world in 356 BCE.

Augustus becoming Emperor in 27 BCE.

Columbus arrival in America in 1492 CE

The end of World War 1 in 1918

The end of World War 2 in 1945.

The date when Yuri Gagarin entered space in 1959 CE.

The labels AD and BC have lost their religious meaning; few even know what the abbreviations stand for.
All of the older history books use AD and BC.
The terms CE and BCE both contain the two letters "CE," making them more difficult to distinguish from each other.
There is currently a split between academics -- who generally use CE/BCE -- and the general public who currently use AD/BC. This split widens "...the rift between learning and the common man."

This should provide you with ample information to write about Easter in your stories, whether it be from the POV of a Christian or a Pagan.
 

Amric

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The Eye of the Hurricane<Amric>

The End of an Era​

I’ve been involved with the Gazette from the very beginning when Alexandru first approached Coz1 and myself with the idea. We all went to Lord Durham about it. He thought it was a grand idea, although he did admittedly have a few reservations. So the Gazette was born.

The idea was to foster cooperation and engender certain values and ideas throughout the various AAR fora and to help budding writers. Well the last part is something I think I can definitively say we DID accomplish. However I have to fully agree with Director and Coz1 that the other goals weren’t really reached. Not for lack of trying but due to the fact there is just too many people to truly move when they don’t want to go.

But in the end this grand experiment DID command some loyalty and it DID help both new writers and even veterans with tips, hints, and ideas. I’d like to think that in some small way the Gazette created BETTER writers and has fomented a higher QUALITY of writing on the forums, regardless of which game the story is written about.

It certainly appears that way to me. I have written 30 articles, at least. Considering that this initiative only lasted a year and that means that I have written a LOT. All to help my fellow writers. That is not counting the numerous interviews I conducted, either. This is not to brag, but to remind people that I worked hard on this. So did Alexandru, Coz1, and Director. All of the senior editors put their hearts and souls on the line every two weeks. Mostly.

This is not to say that the numerous columnists didn’t work hard. They did. There were no bad articles in ANY of the issues of the Gazette. Some issues were more packed than others, true. But each issue had something that would be of use to at least one person. It was a massive effort of collaboration that only the justly famous Free Company could surpass.

The senior editors and columnists didn’t write all these articles just so they could say they did it. They did it to help, educate, and yes even ENTERTAIN us. There were no prizes. No rewards. Just the feeling that one was doing something for the greater community. But as time went on and we never really truly reached beyond our initial core of readers it had to be realized that what we were doing was spinning our wheels.

I remember a discussion Coz1 and I had some months ago after Alexandru left as to just how much longer we were going to keep going with this effort. We both decided to push on. His reasons were his own, mine were because I still had articles in the ‘can’ that I hadn’t posted and numerous ideas still percolating in my mind. When Director came on board as a senior editor it sparked a little new life in the Gazette. But she was already showing her age and had already started slowing down.

I tendered my resignation and retirement for more reasons than just public ones. I thought that perhaps a more intimate idea which I named Amric’s Annex might be a different way to bring about community togetherness. Well it has been up for a few weeks now and I have to say that it is a dismal failure. Well so be it.

This issue is the last of the venerable Gazette. I have enjoyed my time with her and with it’s passing I can go away into that good night knowing that I was part of something GOOD. Something that was meant for an entire community.

Perhaps there will be other initiatives that will continue to try and pull this community closer together. Ones that will actually succeed. But I doubt it. The community is like a large city now. There are too many people with too many different agendas and in such a place there is no way to truly all be one. We are a group of gamers who play a variety of different games and write about them. Nothing wrong with that, but as for a cohesive community…..No. That time is past. I miss it.
 
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